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FedEx and Safe Kids Worldwide Volunteer Spotlight

January 12, 2015

FedEx has been supporting Safe Kids Worldwide for more than 15 years. In this series, we are featuring some of our key volunteers. 

Stories: Eduardo Mezei, Janie Hertan, Jeff Shadix, Julia Khong, Sabiena Foster, Paul Averwater, and Jennifer Archer

 

Eduardo Mezei, Brazil
Human Resources Manager, Latin America and the Caribbean, FedEx Express

I have worked for FedEx for 23 years and as time goes by the more meaningful it gets! During the last seven years I have been volunteering to support the FedEx South America corporate social responsibility board. That’s when I started working on the Walk This Way program, an opportunity that has truly made my life complete.

For kids, living in a developing country can be challenging. I am blessed; I have a car and can drive my son to school. But for most kids, life-threatening situations are an everyday reality. The simple act of walking to school can be dangerous and too many kids are dying or being seriously injured on or around roads. It is clear that the government cannot do it alone. To make communities safer for kids, governments, companies and individuals must work together.

I am proud to work with FedEx and Safe Kids on the Walk This Way program. It enables us to educate kids and families in our communities and raise awareness about the everyday dangers that many people might not notice.

One of my favorite initiatives happened when we provided school children in remote areas with disposable cameras. We asked them to take photos of hazards and dangerous situations they experience while walking to and from school. At the same time, our FedEx couriers, who also serve that area, took photos of dangerous spots from a driver’s perspective. The photos were eye-opening, offering a new and powerful perspective for both drivers and pedestrians on what to look for to stay safe. I was so proud that the photos were displayed in our town and around the world.

Over the years, the teams at FedEx and Safe Kids have found ways to spread safety messages across our massive country by introducing an online road safety training program. This program recruits people from all sectors of our society and equips them with the knowledge and advocacy skills to make a difference in their communities. The program has been so successful that organizations in other countries are interested in replicating the model. In fact, in 2012 the online course received a MAPFRE Foundation Social Award, presented by the Queen of Spain for the course’s efforts to prevent road traffic injuries to children in Brazil.

I think the best thing we can do for all our children is to make sure they have a good future by protecting their health and wellbeing. Part of that protection is teaching children, families and communities how to keep kids safe on the roads.

I am so passionate about this issue that if the Walk This Way program didn’t exist, I would still find a way to get involved on my own time. I feel I must help people who aren’t as blessed as I am. I am so grateful to FedEx and Safe Kids for giving me the chance to do this important and meaningful work.


Janie Hertan
District Administrator, FedEx Express, Fort Lauderdale, FL


I became involved in the Safe Kids Walk this Way program and International Walk to School Day at its very inception and it’s been an  integral  part of my experience at FedEx ever since.

It’s hard to describe the spark we see in the eyes of young children when they see our big delivery trucks and start to understand all the ways to stay safe. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” they say over and over when we give them even the simplest gift of a reflective wrist band. And I want to say “Thank you” right back because it always makes me feel so lucky to be a part of something that makes such an impact on kids.

I sometimes joke with my fellow FedEx volunteers that we are simply “recruiting the safe couriers of tomorrow.” While elementary schoolers may not quite be ready to be thinking about a career, they are certainly ready to be thinking about safety.

I look forward to seeing many more years of growth for International Walk to School Day and my own personal involvement is far from over. Now that I recently became a grandmother, it is even more fulfilling to know that the work I am doing today will go toward forging a safer community for my granddaughter to grow up in years from now.


Jeff Shaddix
Senior Manager, Station Operations, FedEx Express, Pasco, WA

Before I started working for FedEx, I was a teacher. One day, one of my students was hit by a car. It was only moments after I saw her playing on the school grounds without a care in the world. In the end, she survived despite being badly hurt but I’ll never forget the feeling of having to call her parents to tell them their little girl had been hit by a car.

Now, through the Walk This Way program, my goal is to make sure no parent has to get that kind of call.

When I first started working at FedEx, I was uncomfortable doing community service. It wasn’t something I’d grown up with so it was a completely different world for me. I didn’t really know what to expect.

After being a part of the Walk This Way program and seeing the benefits to kids, families and communities, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

At FedEx, we all understand the value of keeping kids safe on and around the roads because of the nature of our work. We’re in the driving business.

One of my favorite parts of the program is when we let the kids climb on and around our FedEx truck to see the road from the driver’s perspective. They get a real sense of what a driver can and can’t see. This experience really brings home everything we are trying to teach the kids in terms of being aware of their surroundings, making eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and taking road safety seriously. Climbing on the truck is also fun for the kids and we know kids learn more when they’re having fun.

Before I started with Walk This Way, I thought community outreach was something that was “nice to do,” but not necessarily a priority. But now I know that Walk This Way is much more. It’s a part of who we are and what we do at FedEx.

Trust me, keeping kids safe in the first place is infinitely better than calling parents after their children have been hurt, and I know helping kids and communities stay safe will be a part of my life for many years to come.


Julia Khong
Corporate Communications Manager, FedEx Express, Asia Pacific

I have been happily involved with the Walk This Way program since the collaboration between FedEx Asia Pacific and Safe Kids began in 2004. And the more I work on it, the more it becomes a personal passion.

In Asia, it’s common for children to exercise unsafe walking behaviors such as walking along the side of roads. In addition, road traffic injuries are one of the five leading causes of disability among children in Asia. So there is a great opportunity to save lives and prevent injuries by educating pedestrians and drivers about the best ways to stay safe.

I truly appreciate FedEx for introducing us to the Walk This Way program. Launching Walk This Way in Asia Pacific was definitely one of my most memorable moments. It seems like yesterday when I met the Safe Kids team for the first time, discussed the key cities for the launch, recruited FedEx volunteers, implemented the program and visited the schools that took part in very first Walk This Way Day.

Working with FedEx employees and the local community, we are truly making a difference. To date, the program has successfully taught more than 2.4 million children about proper pedestrian road use. We are also raising awareness among motorists about safe driving behavior to help ensure our neighborhoods and school zones are more walkable.

Through it all, I’m very proud to be involved in a program that brings positive change to our communities, especially for our children who are our future leaders.


Sabiena Foster
District Administrator, FedEx Express, Buffalo Grove, IL

Several years ago, an emergency room doctor came to an International Walk to School Day event and told us that the majority of kids they treated in the ER were kids who had been hit by cars.

Since that day, I’ve been committed to help Safe Kids, on behalf of FedEx, to spread the word about pedestrian safety.

This year, I was so excited for International Walk to School Day. It had been several years since FedEx and Safe Kid have teamed up for a Walk to School Day event in Chicago and we were eager to use this opportunity to help educate the community and raise awareness about pedestrian safety.

Every school we contacted was eager to be a part of the day and we held incredible events at two local elementary schools, Thurgood Marshall and Lincoln Elementary.

Everyone contributed to make the day a great success. The school Superintendent and the principals were thrilled to be a part of such an event, and contacted the local high schools, the Mayor and police department and the fire department. The teachers and kids worked together to create a song and dance and the kids even created welcome signs and a slide show to thank FedEx and Safe Kids for making it happen.

For me, the best part was seeing everyone together in the gym. It really made me proud to see all the children and their parents gathered with the rest of the community to come together and focus on kids walking to school safely.

Tom O’Donnell, our FedEx safety specialist, who usually gives safety messages in Minneapolis, came all the way to Chicago to deliver a safety message at our event. Several staff members from Safe Kids Worldwide also came to lend a helping hand. The kids learned how to cross the street safely, how to look out for cars and about the dangers of texting and walking.

As a proud mother of teenagers, it is troubling that 40% of teenagers have been hit or nearly hit when walking distracted. It was great to talk to kids early so they can learn not to text when you’re crossing the street.

The entire experience was amazing. It’s what the Walk This Way program is all about and I can’t wait to do it again next year.


Paul Averwater
Senior Technical Writer, FedEx Express, Memphis, TN 

I respectfully declined the first time the vice president of FedEx asked me to participate in the Safe Kids Walk This Way program. It had been two weeks since my wife was struck by a car when she was walking in the pedestrian crosswalk of our neighborhood street. She was still in the hospital ICU and I knew my focus had to be on my duty to my wife.

Not long after the first offer, my managing director approached me to ask if I would reconsider. He spoke passionately about the history of the Walk This Way program. “This is a program that it all about helping kids stay safe,” he said. “You won’t regret getting involved.”

His passion was contagious. I had seen firsthand how a pedestrian injury can affect a person, a family and a community and this was an opportunity to prevent these injuries before they happened.

I agreed to meet with a FedEx Social Responsibility representative to discuss the Walk This Way program. It turned out to be the beginning of the most rewarding activity I have participated in during my 15 years with the company.

Participating in the Walk This Way program has been nothing shy of a monumental blessing that has afforded me a chance to REALLY help protect and inspire individuals for the rest of their lives. To me, giving in such a real way is the stuff that makes life worth living.

After a long road, my wife is now grateful to be doing very well. And she is constant reminder of why our efforts are so important. It’s all about keeping kids safe. Working with Safe Kids, and as part of a FedEx team that includes hundreds of employee volunteers, has presented me one of the most precious gifts I never expected.


Jennifer Archer-Denton
Senior Safety Specialist, FedEx Express, Atlanta, GA

In 2000, I was a relatively new Safety Specialist at FedEx Express and the Safe Kids Walk this Way program was just getting started.  I was assigned the responsibility of coordinating our first International Walk to School Day event in Austin, TX.  Of course, I had no idea what to expect.  And, I had no idea that this was would be the beginning of an enduring relationship with Safe Kids and our pedestrian safety initiatives with them.

Not long after that first walk, we moved to Atlanta, where I continued to participate in Walk to School Day events with several of the local coalitions, including Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett.  I am fortunate to be in a large market with so many employees in all of the Operating Companies who are willing to help with the Safe Kids events. All the time, energy, and passion of the FedEx volunteers is really amazing – and we know we are making a difference in our communities.

In addition to the Walk to School Day programs, I’ve also had the pleasure of supporting several projects that were the result of grants from FedEx to Safe Kids Worldwide.  In these projects, we have collaborated with local governments and schools to make significant physical changes to improve pedestrian safety near schools or other youth facilities.  So many schools with a high percentage of students who walk to/from school are in neighborhoods that lack sidewalks, lights, crosswalks, and other basic safety features.  It has been exciting to be a part of transforming these unsafe areas into places that encourage people of all ages to walk, now that they are safe.

It may seem that working with Safe Kids is simply an extension of what I do at FedEx.  But, the work together is more personal than that.  In the year after that first Walk to School event, our daughter, Laura, was born, followed by Erin two years later.  As time has gone by, it feels like my children have grown up with Safe Kids Walk this Way.  I’ve been able to share in their elementary classrooms the same information we give to students at the walks.  They have learned to Be Safe-Be Seen while walking to the bus stop on dark mornings.  Their middle school handed out Devices Down & Heads Up literature at our town’s Christmas Parade last year.  Safe Kids is as much a part of my family as it is my job.

Fifteen years ago, I never anticipated that being asked to coordinate a walk would become such a wonderful relationship with Safe Kids – one that has enriched the lives of my daughters, and the lives of so many other kids and their families.

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