Safe Kids Wayne County has received high marks from the state for having a successful 2017, especially since it receives no funding from the agency where it is housed, the Partnership for Children of Wayne County.

"The Safe Kids program is completely grant-funded -- no Smart Start funds are used for its activities," said Charles Ivey, executive director for the Partnership.

Mike Causey, commissioner of insurance for the state, penned a letter recognizing the important work being done in the area of Safe Kids.

Unintentional and preventable injuries are considered the leading cause of death and disability for children in this state, from birth through age 19, officials said -- with one in four each year injured seriously enough to require medical attention.

"Every year in North Carolina, more than 250 children die from unintentional injury and more than 50,000 seek medical attention for such injuries," Causey wrote. "This is a staggering number but with the coordinated efforts of Safe Kids N.C. and our 46 coalitions, we as a state are making great strides in reducing these numbers."

There are more than 300 Safe Kids efforts in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Safe Kids USA and Safe Kids North Carolina are members of Safe Kids Worldwide, founded in 1987. The local program has been around for more than 14 years, said Shelly Willis, program director since 2013.

Most of the coalitions operate on limited budgets and few paid employees, Causey said. They rely on volunteers, donations and lead agencies -- like the Partnership -- to support them.

"It is my pleasure to commend Partnership for Children of Wayne County for a successful 2017, and as we begin 2018 I would like to extend my appreciation on your leadership as part of Safe Kids Wayne County," he wrote in a letter to the local agency. "It is our hope that Safe Kids Wayne County continues the important work that keeps our kids safe in child seats or seat belts, keeps medicine out of reach of children and reminds us how important fire safety is in all our lives."

There are three primary risk areas the local program focuses on, Willis said -- around the home, cars and roads and sports and play.

Broken down further, the home category includes poison prevention, TV and furniture tip-overs, fire prevention and burn safety. For cars and roads, that incorporates car seat safety and pedestrian safety, and under sports and play are bicycle safety and concussion prevention.

"We're most known in the community for our car seat, child passenger safety programs that we do," she said, which can be done in the office, during different events throughout the year or by referral.

"We do prefer appointments just so we can make sure at least two technicians are here but we try our very best to work with (parents) and get them in as quickly as possible just to ensure that their seats are checked. We show the parents how to install them so that they feel comfortable."

The information is beneficial especially for those who do not have their own vehicles or might have to move the car seat from one car to another.

Other events during the year that Safe Kids participates in include Operation Medicine Drop, collecting outdated medications and disposing of them, and a diversion program for those who received citations for child passenger seat violations.

Willis said she was grateful for the commendation from the state, sharing credit with others in this community who contribute to Safe Kids' success.

"It's great to be acknowledged but the Partnership for Children provide the space," she said. "We have a very active coalition. Our coalition really makes it possible for us to be at everything."

The community partners consist of representatives from such agencies as the Wayne County Health Department, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Goldsboro Optimist Club, the Goldsboro fire and police departments, YMCA, WATCH and Wayne Community College. The coalition meets bi-monthly or more frequently as needed, sharing updates and information from and with their agencies, Willis said.

Safe Kids has also been fortunate to receive grants to keep it going and donations from families to support it.

"I just want people to continue to share the word that we're here at the Partnership," Willis said. "I want people to know that we're here to help."

The program is free and open to the public, she added.

Information about the effort, from product recalls to upcoming events,can be found on the Safe Kids and Partnership Facebook pages. To schedule an appointment for a child car seat safety check or installation, call 919-735-3371.