After getting out of the IS 350 convertible in the showroom at Hendrick Lexus Kansas City, 13-year-old Bethany Conley had the same reaction as other members of Girl Scout Troop 390 from Platte County.
Conley enjoyed having her picture taken in the luxury car Saturday morning, and there was still so much more to do.
“It is really fun,” Conley said. “I like it because I like cars and I like shopping so it is perfect.”
The focus for the 50 girls from five different troops throughout the Kansas City area on Nov. 22 was on car safety, children’s safety and a potential career in the automotive field.
The morning started with all the girls in a room as employees at Hendrick Lexus gave a brief overview of their company.
The girls then broke off in different groups and went to different areas. Troop 390 was the first group that had their pictures taken while they were individually seated in the IS 350 convertible.
After the photo shoot, they went to the technician area and learned about different aspects of a car and the importance of being aware of such things as tire pressure and tire treads.
“Actually, what I would like the girls to take away is learning to be a little more aware,” said Hendrick Lexus service consultant Shawna Fitzgerald, who was Troop 390’s guide. “She (the Lexus technician) is going to go over low tire pressure, how to jump start a car, the low gas light just so girls are little more comfortable being in a vehicle so they don’t have to depend on somebody else. They can be self-sufficient.
“I think it is awesome we have a female technician talking to them about it.”
While the technician was going over several things about the car, Joy Wheeler, CEO of Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri, watched.
Wheeler, whose group serves Girl Scouts in 47 counties in Missouri and Kansas, was fascinated at what the girls were learning on this field trip.
“Automobiles are computers on wheels,” Wheeler said. “It is major technology today. They are covering some basic safety issues and weaving the science in.”
It was the first time Hendrick Lexus Kansas City had put on an event for Girl Scouts, and the dealership is going to do another on Dec. 6. Wheeler said it is already filled, and there is a waiting list.
“I think it is magnificent,” Wheeler said. “Lexus reached out to us and asked if we would be interested in doing an automotive program for girls. We immediately said yes because we have to break through the stereotyping that girls don’t want to learn about cars. They are avidly interested in learning about cars.
“I think when we do these programs, they are fun experiences. They are learning about career opportunities that they might not have thought about.”
Besides learning about car care and viewing the IS 350 convertible, the girls were taught the importance of not texting and driving. They also made a stop at the Operation Kidsafe area.
It is an area in Hendrick Lexus where parents can bring their children any time during business hours and have them fingerprinted and photographed for free. They are also given a child safety kit.
The Operation Kidsafe system and procedure were developed using consultants from the FBI, police officials and fingerprinting experts. The latest digital systems are used to capture the fingerprints of each hand along with a full digital head and shoulder photograph. The information is then printed on hard copy and handed to a parent for safe keeping. There is an area on the document for parents to update with a current photo.
Should a child become lost or kidnapped, the parent would call 911 and let law enforcement know they have an Operation Kidsafe document. The police department will know how to handle it from there.
To learn more about Operation Kidsafe, go to www.operationkidsafe.org.
The program started at Hendrick Lexus when Operation Kidsafe founder Mark Bott sent out emails to organizations and dealerships seeking sponsorship or to hold an event.
“We held an event in July,” said Becky Voyles, executive assistant program coordinator at Hendrick Lexus. “It was so successful, and the response was overwhelming. The people who missed wanted to know when Operation Kidsafe would be back in town. That is when we decided to get the rights for a year.
“The event we had in July, 249 children were fingerprinted and learned valuable safety tips.”
Hendrick Lexus employees also learned a few safety tips that they are able to use to help them with their own children.
“The No. 1 safety tip we all learned was the check-first rule,” Voyles said. “This is designed to remove the burden from children on whether it is all right to go with somebody. Whether it is someone you know or not, you always go to the adult in charge whether that is a parent, a family member, teacher and ask them if it is OK to go with this person.
“That gets the burden off the child. We want to push that on our children instead of what we used to do, (which) is don’t go off with anybody if they say ‘help me look for my puppy.’ Because as soon as you say don’t go off with somebody who is looking for a puppy, someone will say, ‘Can you help me find my bunny rabbit?’ and they will go look for the bunny because it is in their head it is not a puppy. We remove that and say check with a trusted adult first.”
Voyles said employees throughout Hendrick Lexus are trained to do Operation Kidsafe.
“There is always someone who knows,” Voyles said. “This service is also good for older children or (those with) special needs, including the elderly.
“We love our customers and our customers’ children. It is the right thing to do.”
Wheeler certainly saw that caring nature on Nov. 22. She was impressed by the number of different women with different jobs at Hendrick Lexus who were talking about various aspects of the company.
“We take girls to different experiences and have women leading the program so that the girls can see role models,” Wheeler said.
“Lexus’ commitment to kids is so amazing. They are such a phenomenal community partner in what they are doing with their Kidsafe program, and now wanting to get girls knowledgeable about cars.”
Carolyn Bidwell, the leader of Troop 390, was happy she was able to bring this group of girls to Saturday’s event.
They learned about it on the Girl Scout website. Bidwell signed up the troop to broaden the girls’ horizon and give them another career to think about.
“I think this is absolutely fantastic,” Bidwell said.
Emily Slaton, a parent of one of the girls in Troop 390, also was impressed. She snapped pictures of her daughter in the IS 350 convertible.
“I think this is really nice,” Slaton said. “The girls are really excited. Hopefully, they learn a lot, things they wouldn’t normally learn.”
If you have a story you would like to see in Make a Difference, email David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com