Program empowers kids, teaches ways to stay safe

By Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Jennifer Waugh, The Morning Show anchor, investigative reporter, jwaugh@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 20 2014 04:28:36 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 10:10:00 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The FBI reports 2,000 kids a day are kidnapped, either by complete strangers or someone they know.  Much like the case of 7 year old Somer Thompson, who was lured into a home she passed every day on her way to and from school in Orange Park. Jarred Harrell was convicted of rape and murder in the 2009 killing.

Eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle hardly knew the man police say lured her out of a Northside store,  raped her  and then killed her.  Her mother had just met Donald Smith that night...he had offered to buy her and her children cloths and food.

It's a reminder of how important it is to teach your children how and when to protect themselves.  Trainers at RAD Kids are doing just that.  RAD stands for: Resisting, Aggression Defensively. The program teaches and empowers children to recognize, avoid, resist and escape violence.

“It teaches me how to be safe, and how to, if I’m being attacked, I can attack them back,” said RAD Kid Bianca Baldinelli.

RAD instructor Joanne Waite teaches specific drills like elbowing, hand blocking, and knee strikes. In one demonstration the girls practice escaping from their backpacks; another scenario involves a possible abduction in a store.

Whether they are heel-kicking or using pepper fingers, the practice helps them prepare physically and mentally. “It makes me feel more confident and stronger,” explained RAD Kid Annie Krzywicki.

The program gives kids, no matter what their age, permission to defend themselves.

“We help kids learn that they are in charge of themselves,” Waite said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children advises that children under the age of 12 not be allowed out by themselves. Instead of teaching your children not to talk to strangers, base their decision not on what a person looks like, but what they are asking them to do.

Also, tell your children, if they are lost, they should go to a store, and ask the clerk behind the cash register for help.

Channel 4 talked with the founder of RAD Kids, Steve Daily.  He says right now, the closest instructor to our are is in Gainesville, but he would like to get the program into schools here in Jacksonville, too.

If you are interested in learning more about having that instructor teach the 8-hour class in your school or children's program, you can email Daily at radkids@radkids.org. The program's website is www.radkids.org.

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