THE Strand in Whakatane was closed for an hour last Friday as children marched and chanted loudly through the street Orange Day Parade.

More than 200 road patrol students from around the Eastern Bay joined the parade, a national event, honouring the children who help get their classmates to school and home again safely each day.

Senior Constable Trish Morris says Orange Day is about rewarding the road patrols who worked to keep students safe. “There’s a large amount of traffic on the road nowadays.

We’ve got to make sure that kids get to and from school safely.

“We reward them each year for what they do. They volunteer their time and it’s a big commitment and responsibility for them to take on. They do it rain or shine. This is one way of saying thank you” she says.

Eleven schools from the region recited their banner themes, which ranged from driving while distracted and urging drivers to put their phones down, to flags in te reo Maori and English encouraging drivers to watch for children when driving.

Accolades went to Ohope School for best banner and Kawerau Putuaki School for best dressed.

Putuaki School staff member Allen Hill says their “amazing” principal Rachel Chater went shopping for the childrens’ outfits. Nine patrols from their small school marched the streets in their bright orange tutus and voices to match.

HEAD FOR SAFETY: Daeshan Lang, rear, and road cone princess, Laura Muggeridge. D9093-004

“We really enjoyed winning the best dressed. It was awesome” she says. Ohope School road patroller Oscar Milne says it took them one week to decorate and paint their banner.

“We had a lot of fun doing it” he says.

The Whakatane Aquatic Centre got on board with free pool and hydro slide passes, the team at Tracks Contracting helped with traffic management, McDonald’s provided vouchers for the winners, Eastern Bay of Plenty Road Safety funded the barbecue, Opotiki Buses helped get children to the event, and Eastbay REAP funded transport.

EastBay REAP early child co-ordinator Sheryl Semmens says it was one way they could support the road patrollers and acknowledge the beautiful mahi they did.

“Ahakoi, he Iti he pounamu – Although it is small, it is precious. It’s only in the morning and afternoons doing traffic but it saves lives” she says.

delilah.whaitiri@thebeacon.co.nz