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LA kid safety class offered in Samantha Runnion's memory

July 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Local children are learning what to do if a stranger tries to take them, thanks to a class now being offered through the L.A. County Parks and Recreation Department.

The class is part of the radKIDS Personal Empowerment Safety Education Program, a 10-hour course being offered at five L.A. County parks.

The class is taught by sheriff's deputies and teaches kids three things they need to know if a stranger tries to take them.

"Hit hard, yell loud and run fast," said L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Jorian. "And with the combination of those three, you're able to, besides stunning the bad guy, you're also drawing attention when you're making a lot of noise."

The program was brought to L.A. County through The Joyful Child Foundation, started by Erin Runnion. Ten years ago, her 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped from their Stanton home. She was sexually assaulted, strangled and was found dead the day after she went missing. Alejandro Avila was convicted and sentenced to death for the girl's murder.

The foundation picked Thursday to get the word out about the safety classes because it would have been Samantha Runnion's 16th birthday.

Erin Runnion says her daughter's legacy should be to teach kids how to be brave when a stranger approaches, and know what to do to get away.

"Children are the No. 1 victims of all violent crime in this country," she said. "They need to be taught how to escape from danger. They need to know that it's not their fault if somebody tries to hurt them or trick them. And they need to know some skills to get away."

For more information on where the radKIDS classes are offered, visit The Joyful Child Foundation website.

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