They say that laughter is the best medicine, but did you also know laughter is a great way to teach children about life and fire safety?
I had the opportunity recently to meet Deanna Hartmier and Valerie Meiners (aka Dee Dee the Clown and Puff), co-founders of LAFS Canada Inc. while they filmed a promotional video at the Winakwa Community Centre.
LAFS, an acronym for Life and Fire Safety, is a registered non-profit charity affiliated with Just 4 LAFS and S.M.I.L.E. (Safety Messages in Life Education) that aims to educate as well as entertain. It is often referred to as ‘edutainment’ in the biz.
According to Hartmier "statistics have proven that learning through edutainment is the most effective way to teach positive messages to children".
According to its mission statement, LAFS’ goal is to "reduce, through the use of educational puppetry, clowning and characterization, the loss of life, property, and injuries caused by fire or other emergency situations".
As their alter egos Dee Dee the Clown and Puff, Hartmier and Meiners travel to elementary schools and communities across Winnipeg and the rest of the province spreading their message through a 40-minute interactive show featuring music, skits, magic tricks and, of course, lots of laughs.
Make no mistake, though. Clowning around is serious business for these two veteran performers. In fact, Hartmier and Meiners have more than 35 years of combined experience in the entertainment industry and with LAFS Canada.
In addition to their numerous awards and honours, Hartmier is currently the president elect for the World Clown Association and Meiners is facilitator for the Bump-a-Nose Clown Alley, a local group that meets on the second Monday of every month at Winakwa Community Centre to discuss all things clown-related.
Manitoba is currently the only province to have a LAFS Canada program but the organization hopes to go national in the near future.
According to Gail Stekler, president of LAFS Canada, "Puff and Dee Dee would love to share their knowledge with other performers across Canada to bring this wonderful form of edutainment to all children."
Corporate and private donations are always welcome, and all proceeds are reinvested back into LAFS programs.
For more information on LAFS Canada, to make a donation, or to book a performance contact Stekler at 204-330-0292 or visit www.lafscanada.com to see photos and testimonials. Make sure you check it out; there’s even a fun page featuring a word search puzzle and colouring pages!
Heather Tiede is a community correspondent for Windsor Park. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.