Safe Kids Carbon County Chapter members recently recognized a group of individuals for their dedication to the organization, which helps teach parents and children how to be safe.

During the Safe Kids annual award and appreciation luncheon on Tuesday, two organizations and one individual were recognized for their contributions to the organization.

Carbon County Safe Kids chairwoman Mindy Graver presented the group appreciation awards to Blue Mountain Health System and Lehigh Valley Health Network for their continued support of the group's events, such as car seat check ups, the bicycle safety program; and more.

Blue Mountain Health System has supported Safe Kids in a number of ways, Graver said, including giving a $500 donation to purchase helmets for the group's annual Fun-N-Safety Fair; and being the fiscal grantee for the club.

Graver thanked Mary Lou McGeehan, community education coordinator for Blue Mountain Health System and a member of Safe Kids, for everything she and the hospitals have done and asked that she accept the award on behalf of the hospitals.

McGeehan graciously accepted and thanked Safe Kids for the recognition.

Lehigh Valley Health Network has also been a big supporter of the organization's car seat checks; as well as for their program Operation Safe Ride, which provides car seats to families that cannot afford them.

"You have always supported us," Graver said to Bill McQuilken, trauma prevention coordinator at Lehigh Valley Health Network, as he accepted the award on behalf of LVHN.

Graver then announced the individual appreciation award and presented it to Debbie Balch, administrative assistant for Care Net of Carbon County.

Graver said she is thankful to have Balch as a member of Safe Kids.

"Everybody gives a part of themselves for this cause," she said. "Some go above and beyond the call of duty. Everything we accomplished this year goes to Debbie."

She added that Balch has taken responsibility to house the group's car seats for its various programs; as well as run the Car Seat Loan Program, which helps Carbon County families in need by renting out car seats to families who qualify for the program.

Following the awards, Graver recapped the year's accomplishments, which included organizing seven car seat check ups in the county; receiving a grant for two sports injury prevention clinics; conducting booster seat, bicycle helmet, pedestrian, and toddler safety programs at schools and health fairs; and handing out bicycle helmets and car seats to families in need.

She said that during the car seat checks this year, which are held in coordination with Pennsylvania State Troopers, a total of 101 seats were checked. The checks were held at Lehighton Head Start, Coaldale Head Start, Wal-Mart in Lehighton, Kovatch Dealership in Lehighton, and Palmerton Ambulance. Additional checks that were by appointment only were held in Coaldale and Lehighton.

Car seat check dates for 2013 have been set for May 20, Sept. 17, and Nov. 25. More information will be announced at a later date.

It was also announced that several events and programs are planned for 2013.

Safe Kids Carbon County is continuing the Car Seat Loan Program, which is open to Carbon County families. Seats will be distributed from Care Net of Carbon County, located at 531 Mahoning St., Lehighton.

The seats will be available to low income families on a rental basis. A deposit will be required at the time of the rental and if in good condition when returned, the deposit will be refunded.

Balch said that so far, the program has been successful and is helping educate the families on car seat safety.

Anyone interested in participating in the Car Seat Loan Program should contact Balch at (610) 379-0411 to set up an appointment.

Safe Kids is again hoping to partner with the Carbon Masonic Lodge 242 to host the Fun-N-Safety Fair in Jim Thorpe. The annual event is usually held the first Saturday in May.

Carbon County Safe Kids was organized in 1995 to promote the prevention of childhood injuries in Carbon County through education, collaboration, and advocacy.

Safe Kids is a partnership of several agencies and individuals that provide broad-based support and diversity for educational activities. It sponsors effective injury reduction activities, promote awareness and education among child advocates, support public policies and programs that reduce injuries among children and youth.

Some of its member agencies include: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Blue Mountain Health System, Carbon County Assistance Office, Carbon County Highway Safety Program, Pennsylvania State Police, Carbon County Head Start, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Child Care Information Services of Carbon County, Carbon County Commissioners, and Right from the Start.