Meeting and thanking heroes during Oakhurst Night Out

Paige Escovedo, 4, thought it was pretty cool to sit on Madera County Sheriff Department’s Deputy Larry Rich’s motorcycle at Night Out.
Paige Escovedo, 4, thought it was pretty cool to sit on Madera County Sheriff Department’s Deputy Larry Rich’s motorcycle at Night Out. Sierra Star

Those brave enough to venture out in the 100-plus degree weather on National Night Out in Oakhurst this week had the opportunity to meet a number of Mountain Area first responders, climb into a fire engine, sit on a CHP motorcycle with flashing lights, and even win a new, shiny bike.

California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Kaci Lutz, who coordinated the event, said the purpose of National Night Out is to connect the community with the heroes of public safety.

“It’s really a celebration of public service, safety, and the community,” Lutz said. “It’s important everyone is aware of what we do. We want people to see who we are, and let them know we’re more than just what they see when they are pulled over by flashing lights.”

Elva Cervantes took her five children to the event - four daughters, Lali, 9, Leta, 8, Quetzali, 5, and Elvita, 1, in matching red dresses - and son, Milo, 4, wearing his sporty hat.

Four of her children received life jackets, compliments of the Madera County Sheriff’s Department. The department’s boat patrol at Bass Lake had about 200 life jackets at the start of summer to ensure the safety of children while swimming and boating on the popular lake.

“This is an awesome event,” Cervantes said. “My children loved meeting all the policemen and firemen. I really appreciate the free life jackets that were available for children, because a lot of families, as important as they are to have, can’t afford to buy them.”

It turned out to be a lucky night for Cervantes as three of her children won bicycles that were given away by the CHP Senior Volunteers through a drawing. In all, 14 children went home with a new bike.

Coarsegold resident William Wilder, 2, in his superhero outfit complete with mask and cape, was another lucky winner of a new bike with training wheels. He attended the event with his mother, Kristi, and 4-year-old brother Theodore.

“William was super excited to get his first bike and can’t wait to learn how to ride it,” Kristi said.

Nathan Escovedo had his two daughters with him, Lilly, 6, and Paige, 4. Paige met Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Rich and got to sit on his off-road motorcycle.

“This is a great event for the community,” Nathan said. “It’s great to get to see and meet the men and women who protect us.”

Participants in Night Out, held Aug. 1 in the Old Mill Shopping Center near Vons, included: Representatives from the Madera County Sheriffs Department, its Search & Rescue, off-road vehicle, boat patrol, and SWAT teams, California Highway Patrol (including a canine unit), Madera County Fire Station 12 engine and crew, Sierra Ambulance, Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, state parks, state Department of Fish & Wildlife, Eastern Madera-Mariposa Counties Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and the Mountain Amateur Radio Club.

Additional booths included the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst, Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Yosemite / Madera County, the Red Cross, the Central Valley Blood Center, Central California Animal Disaster Team, Cal Trans, Madera County Health Department, Madera County District Attorney David Linn, representatives of District 8 State Senator Tom Berryhill (Jenna Welch) and District 5 Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (Mika Petrucci), and Yosemite Transportation.

Pizza was provided by Round Table Pizza, the Sierra Shadow Casters motorcycle group barbecued free hot dogs, and everyone donating blood at the event received a coupon for Stevens Italian Ice.

Mascots Smokey Bear and CHP’s Chips also attended, and both said they had fun and enjoyed meeting all the families that live in Eastern Madera County.