Children ran and played Wednesday evening at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.
Near the play area, adults mingled and talked about the Uvalde, Texas, elementary-school mass shooting, in which 19 children and two teachers died.
Families, teachers and local leaders went to the Discovery Center for an event intended to prompt conversations about the safety of children.
“Play is powerful and healing. That’s why we’re opening our doors for families,” said Dene Mosier, president and CEO of the Discovery Center.
The event was an opportunity for compassion and healing.
“I don’t envy teachers that have to talk about it today,” said Rossville Grade School teacher Evan Firner. “It’s really sad. People talk about how we need a police officer in the school. Well, they had one.”
The Discovery Center said about 230 people attended the event, with about 125 of them children.
Activities like yoga and art help heal
The event also gave children the opportunity to express their feelings through art.
The event provided peaceful healing activities, including tips on how to talk to children, family yoga sessions, sound bowl creations and more.
Mosier said she wanted people to come in and feel welcomed, because she knows that families need to come together during moments like these.
“No child should be unsafe in their home, school and museums,” she said. “That’s why we have officials here on how they can help and have those conversations.”
Firner, the Rossville teacher, said students regularly ask him “What if?“ a shooting were to happen at their school. He said the school has students practice blocking the classroom door and windows, as well as hiding behind turned-over desks.
Leaders gathered to offer assistance
Officials from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, the YWCA, the Topeka Police Department and Family Service & Guidance Center were present to assist families with their feelings about the mass shooting.
“We’re here to open the door to talk about mental health,” said Tina Brackman, an art therapist at Family Service.
She exhibited brochures and information packets about the various ways that the center is able to assist families.
“We do an informational packet every month and online PowerPoints to bring more awareness,” Brackman said. “We don’t want people to be afraid to reach out to us.”
Topeka Police Major Russell Klumpp said his focus is on keeping children safe.
“We’re really here to bring more awareness to firearm safety,” Klumpp said, “especially in regards to if there are children in the home.”
Firner said he is grateful the Discovery Center had the event.
“We’re excited they took this on to say the least,” Firner said. “This is a great place, it really is. I bring my children here at least once a week with our membership.”
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Topeka Discovery Center offers healing after another US mass shooting