Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
Sammy Safety, certified safety superhero, right, helps Fair, Methodist Rehabilitation Center's canine companion, open several gift wrapped dog bones given to the golden retriever by children at the Reservoir YMCA day camp. Fair celebrated his fifth birthday during a Think First safety program at the YMCA.
Ashley Sherman, a day camper at the Reservoir YMCA, Sammy Safety and physical therapist Erin Pryor look on as Fair, the canine companion at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, pulls a sock off the foot of day camper Drew Saxon.
Erin Pryor, a physical therapist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, and Reservoir YMCA day campers Shelly Esco, Haley Sykes, Cody Butz and Andrew Jemison help Fair, the Jackson hospital's canine companion, celebrate his fifth birthday.

JACKSON, Miss.—After visiting 60 Mississippi schools and appearing before more than 16,000 students, Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program is focusing on summer safety and setting its sights on day camps throughout the state.

The Jackson hospital kicked off its summer campaign at the Reservoir YMCA in Brandon. But along with teaching day campers about bicycle, swimming, diving and other summer safety topics, they also honored a valued member of the Think First team.

Fair, a golden retriever and canine companion, celebrated his fifth birthday and third year of working with patients at Methodist Rehab.

Along with his handler, physical therapist Erin Pryor, and certified safety superhero Sammy Safety, Fair is a centerpiece in many Think First programs. Pryor explains to children how Fair works with patients who face brain and spinal cord injuries and strokes.

“The kids love Fair and he gets their attention so when we discuss brain and spinal cord injuries, we can see they’re listening and getting the message,” said Pryor. Fair trained in Santa Rosa, Calif., to work with people with disabilities and limitations.

“In the hospital, Fair is a motivator and a spirit-lifter. He can help patients regain arm strength by returning tennis balls they throw or by playing tug-of-war with them,” added Pryor. “But he can also help them recover just by being with them when they go through therapy which is usually very challenging and difficult.”

The day campers honored Fair for his years of hard work with a bone-shaped cake as they open his gifts for him. “He’s always hoping for some new tennis balls and milk bones,” added Pryor.

The Think First team takes summer safety programs such as the one at the YMCA just as seriously as the ones done during the school year, said Think First director Lauren Fairburn. “The period between May and August is called the trauma season because of an increased number of injuries that occur,” she said.

"Traumatic injuries peak during the summer months when children are out of school and aren't supervised as much, " said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab. "The more time they spend outdoors increases their risk of injury, especially if they aren't protected with the appropriate safety gear and supervision."

Wearing a bicycle helmet lowers the chance of sustaining a brain injury by 85 percent, Vohra added.

That’s why it’s important to keep getting the safety message out, added Fairburn. “The important thing is that most of the life-threatening injuries we see at Methodist Rehab can be prevented, but you have to always think first about safety.”

For Fair, Sammy Safety and the rest of the Think First team, summer isn’t the time for a vacation. In fact, it is their busiest season. During the next few months they’ll visit day camps in Clinton, Jackson, Hattiesburg and others all over the state.

For more information:
Canine companion at hospital honored | The Clarion-Ledger