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'National Night Out' brings kids, cops together in Aiken

Dozens of children were the center of attention Tuesday evening in Perry Memorial Park, with the Aiken Department of Public Safety helping present the local version of the National Night Out event, billed as "an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie."

This year's event included a chance for kids to test their skills with hula hoops, a relay event with water-filled paper cups and a "color war," with the designated "blue team" and "green team" getting the chance to put plenty of colored powder into the air and on each other. 

The grand finale, facilitated by a fire truck, was a few minutes under a shower from a fire hose. Attorney Everett Chandler, with Chandler Law Firm, helped run the show, with a variety of public safety officers on hand for the 90-minute gathering. Also on the administrative end were Capt. Aaron Dobbs, with Aiken Public Safety; and Cynthia Mitchell, the community services coordinator with Aiken Public Safety.

"Everybody had fun," in the words of Sgt. Joe O'Conor, also with public safety. "I was truly impressed with the kids. They all helped clean up. They were all very respectful. Everybody had a good attitude. I was blown away."

Shepeard Community Blood Center had representatives on hand, with a bloodmobile at the park to receive donations, and the Aiken Volunteer Mounted Unit visited as well, offering kids the chance for a face-to-face meeting with friendly horses. Among other boosters were the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, HopeHealth and Life Choices Pregnancy Care Center.

Aiken County normally has a variety of National Night Out events. Among upcoming ones is a gathering set for Friday in Wagener. Scheduled to be from 6 to 9 p.m., the event is for residents of Perry, Salley and Wagener, and will be held in Ponder Park, next to the fire department. It is being promoted as featuring free food, music, "activities for the kiddos" and "resources for the community." 

The national event is "an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live," as described on its website.

The summary notes, "National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances."