The nationally recognized program will teach children how to prevent attacks from strangers through a free workshop.
It’s an experience no parent ever wants to have — discovering that their child has been abducted.
It’s an experience that Dignity Memorial Escape School hopes to prevent them from having.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 250,000 children are abducted per year — nearly 700 per day.
“I’ve worked in the funeral industry for 18 years,” Verna McKelvin said. “Unfortunately, when an abduction has the worst outcome, I have seen that.”
McKelvin is the manger of Wells Memorial Funeral Home and Event Center. She has been a certified instructor with Dignity for the last 10 years. She will be instructing an Escape School class Saturday, April 29, at Mt. Zion Assembly of God, 3005 Thonotosassa Road.
The class will be divided into two sessions and last about 45 minutes each, she said. First, there will be a session for children between the ages of 5 and 11 at 10:30 a.m., followed by a session for children 12 and older at 1 p.m.
“Dignity Memorial Escape School is offered in an entertaining and non-threatening manner,” Mt. Zion Pastor Carlos Ramirez said in a statement. “The program teaches children how to differentiate between good and bad strangers, the common lures abductors use, how to ‘get away, right away,’ and how to find help when needed.”
Dignity Memorial Escape School is a nationally recognized program and has been featured on numerous national television news shows. McKelvin teaches the program about 20 times per year, she said. Venues range from home-school groups to audiences at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa.
“It doesn’t matter how small or how large (the crowd),” she said. “I’ve done as little as 4 and as many as 300.”
The lessons learned at Escape School can be a lifesaver, McKelvin said. A few seconds can make all the difference.
“We don’t want a child to freeze, we don’t want a child to pull away,” McKelvin said. “We believe if they know it, if they practice, it’ll be automatic. Hopefully they never have to do it, but if they have to do it, they’ll know what to do.”
Sometimes, she added, parents will drop their children of at an Escape School event and leave. But McKelvin said the instruction can be just as important for parents.
“A lot of times kids get dropped off,” she said. “It is just as important for the adults. They need to know what we’re teaching them and sometimes they learn, too.”
Parents can then take those lessons home and practice with their children to make sure they are prepared for situations, ranging from being grabbed by a stranger to being put in a trunk.
The event is free and open to the public. Those wishing to attend can register online at MtZionFL.com.
Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]