South suburban spotlight
It was 11 a.m. on a run-of-the-mill Monday morning or so the Munson family thought. Andy Munson was at work. Mom, Lisa, was on her way home with 10-year-old daughter, Ashley. And 12-year-old Stephanie was feeding 3-year-old Emma while 6-year-old Tommy played in the other room.
Then Tommy yelled "Fire."
On July 29, the fire burned through the home, destroying everything the family had, leaving Andy and Lisa in shock, Tommy and Emma terrified and Stephanie a hero.
"I got into the living room and there were flames all over the couch," Stephanie says. "I grabbed Tommy, Emma, the dog and the cordless phone. I hit the fire button on our alarm system and got out of the house."
Stephanie later received an award from the Plainfield Fire Department, a certificate of recognition for showing extreme courage by safely evacuating her sister, brother and family pet while her home filled with fire and smoke.
The courage stemmed from knowing just what to do, Stephanie says. Stephanie had been a student in Marylouise Kiefert’s baby-sitting clinic held at the Plainfield Park District the year before.
"I teach the kids in my class to remain calm, no matter what the situation," says Kiefert. "I tell them you can’t do anything if you are running around screaming and yelling."
Kiefert says the kids in her course practice scenarios like the one Stephanie encountered.
"I educate these kids on how serious the job of baby-sitting is. It is probably the most serious job they will have in their lives," she says. "I teach them how to be prepared. What they should ask parents before they baby-sit: how to work the fuse box, microwave, where is the first aid kit and family meeting spot in case of a fire, are there any allergies? I also teach them toy safety, what toys are appropriate for what ages. We cover a lot of areas."
Keifert, who has been holding the clinic for 24 years, says she is proud of Stephanie.
"Accidents are going to happen," says Kiefert. "Kids are going to get hurt, scrape their knees. The key is to be prepared."
Most communities offer baby-sitting classes. Check with your park district, local YMCA or hospital to find one close to you.