EXETER — Three-year-old Emma Jordan, from West Pittston, ran after her brother, Clayton, Sept. 24 in the parking lot at Wyoming Area Catholic School and climbed into her favorite thing: a school bus. The two pre-schoolers usually run across that parking lot on a school day.
But Saturday was different. Along with the school bus, the lot was full of the kind of toys that most kids get under the tree at Christmas. But these were life-size, the real thing. And every kid could climb into them, blow the horn, sound the siren, try out the steering.
The event was the first-ever Touch-A-Truck Day held by the school’s parent-teacher group to raise money for school activities. In contrast to the usual bake sales and bingo, this hit a home run.
There were lots of trucks like tow trucks, cement trucks and 18-wheelers. And backhoes and excavators, ambulances, fire trucks and police cars, a crane that towered over the parking lot, a bucket truck, a tiny helicopter and even a sprint racer.
“I’m not really worried about anything breaking,” said Jordan Thomas, 19, the professional sprint car driver from Harding who helped youngsters into the shiny orange and black car. “If it doesn’t break at 160 miles an hour, it won’t break with a kid in it.”
All afternoon, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles arrived with kids in tow, some walking, some in strollers. And all eager to get their hands on, in and around some kind of vehicle. The older folks took lots of pictures for family albums.
No one had to tell those kids to smile.
“They climb in and their faces just light up,” said Jessica Grant, of Warrior Run, getting a shot of 2-year-old Noah in the cab of a cement truck. She said she read about the event on the school’s Facebook page and thought it might be something Noah would like.
“I may not be able to get him home,” she said.
The massive vehicles didn’t seem to frighten anyone, either.
Blake Pribula, 8, from West Pittston, said he wanted to “go up in the bucket” after he finished his ice cream. But he had doubts anyone would let that happen. Four-year-old Makenzie Wallace, from Pittston, needed help from her dad, Justin, just to get to the step on the Pittston Fire Truck.
Christian Renfer, 10, of Scranton, a fourth-grader at the school raced from truck to truck with three of his school pals, then climbed into the cabin of one of the 18-wheelers to sound its air horn.
After he climbed out, seven-year-old Isabella Falzone, visiting from West Pittston with her grandmothers and aunt, climbed in and used her cell phone to get a picture of the distance from her feet to the pedals on the floor.
“It’s pretty far,” she said. “I like this one, and I like the fire trucks. A lot.”
And the youngsters weren’t the only ones having fun.
“I love these kinds of events. This is one of the best parts of my job,” said State Police Trooper Tom Kelley, who led “guided tours” of the police cruiser, patiently pointing out the controls for sirens and lights and letting kids try out the radar gun. His cruiser was one of the most popular stops, mostly because of that siren.
PTG president Lisa Pribula and vice president Allison Stanchak pulled the project together with lots of phone calls and help from organization members.
“Kids just don’t get to get their hands on things,” Stanchak said. “This is a chance for them to get up close and personal with trucks and equipment and meet the people who work with them.”
“And everything was donated,” Pribula said. “I mean everything.”
Local contractors drove equipment to the parking lot and provided employees to keep an eye on both the vehicles and the kids’ safety. Police officers, firemen and emergency medical personnel did the same for their chariots, as well as explaining the workings of what they drive.
McCarthy Tire donated the ice cream for the day, many PTG members gathered donations for the raffle baskets and Grand Rental Station in Dupont picked up the tab for the bounce house.
Tux, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins mascot and Elmo, from Sesame Street, took time from their busy schedules to clown around with the youngsters.
Wyoming Area Catholic teachers and a host of parents volunteered to spend their Saturday afternoon to run the event.
They even had a “quiet hour” to start the day so kids with challenges and those on the autism spectrum could enjoy the trucks without being scared by horns and sirens.
“We’re all family here,” said fifth-grade teacher Josie Toomey, who collected money at the gate and greeted all comers. “We all support the school in any way we can. It’s a great place. And you can see, they hold some wonderful events.”