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Volunteer keeps Lynnwood's children safe, snug in car seats

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD -- Cheryl Surridge got her start as a child-car-seat technician while volunteering with the Lynnwood Police Department's Citizens Patrol.
Ten years later, Surridge has continued to donate time to the effort. For her, it's rewarding to help first-time parents who often are overwhelmed and need help with safety pointers.
"They're very grateful we have this program here," she said. "A lot of the people we see here are expecting parents or they're with newborns."
Surridge, 58, balances her volunteer work with a full-time job pricing merchandise at an Albertsons store. She has two grown children, and helped install a seat for her 3-year-old grandson, Isaac.
The nonprofit Safe Kids Snohomish County honored Surridge as its volunteer of the year for 2010. The Lynnwood Police Department also has recognized her long record of volunteer service.
Lynnwood offers the safety-seat inspections by appointment on the first and third Wednesday of each month. It helps with about 250 installations per year, Surridge said.
Lynnwood's program is part of a countywide network that Safe Kids Snohomish County coordinates through local police departments, fire departments and hospitals.
Because of declining grant money, there aren't as many fitting stations as when Surridge started a decade ago.
In fact, Lynnwood's program remains up and running largely thanks to her work. She has one other person helping her and they receive only a small amount of donations for supplies.
"If she were gone, it would leave a huge hole in the countywide program," said Shawneri Guzman of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, who coordinates the local Safe Kids safety seat inspections.
Surridge's calm, compassionate demeanor help win over parents, Guzman said.
Becoming a certified technician requires a 32-hour certification class. There are 31 nationally certified technicians and two instructors in the county, Guzman said.
The training is important because most child safety seats are used incorrectly. Common missteps include: The wrong seat for the child's age, weight and height, or for the vehicle; improper installation; and not properly buckling a child into the seat harness.
The installation tutorial takes 30-45 minutes. Surridge first puts in the seat herself, then has the parents do it.
"I will physically make them reinstall it, because I won't be there tomorrow if they have to take it out," she said.
She stresses that all parents read their child seat manuals.
All seats must fit snugly, with no more than an inch of side-to-side movement. The backs of rear-facing infant seats should be reclined at a 45-degree angle. The steps help protect a child's spine, which can suffer permanent damage with as little as a quarter of an inch of movement during a crash.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

Car seat basics:
•All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are at least 2 years old or until they reach the maximum weight or height for the seat.
All children who are over age 2, or who have outgrown the rear-facing seat, should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height limit allowed for the seat.
All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit of the seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between the ages of 8 and 12.
All children under the age of 13 should be restrained in the back seat of vehicles for optimal protection

More info:
Lynnwood - 425-670-5710 or
Safe Kids: 425-261-3047 or
Story tags » Human InterestLynnwoodVolunteer

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