WPD Officer Anuar Velazquez plans Dia del Nino for second year

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Following a successful inaugural year, Dia del Nino will return April 28 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Quaker Park, 17501 Dartown Rd.

“Last year, it went better than I expected. We ended up running out of food,” said Westfield Police Dept. officer Anuar Velazquez, who created the event. “Our attendance was higher than expected, so we had a good response.”

From left, officer Anuar Velazquez, Leilani Hobbs and Mariangela Velazquez attend last year’s inaugural Dia del Nino. (File photo by Anna Skinner)

This year, Velazquez planned the event with assistance from the Westfield Youth Assistance Program.

Last year, approximately 200 people attended. Velazquez expects attendance to be closer to 300 this time.

“We had a great response from the community, and we had a great response from the Latino community after we started doing outreach. We started seeing the Latino community was wanting to come out to the city events,” Velazquez said.

Velazquez credits the event for helping WMD improve its relationship with the Latino community.

“They are more actively reporting suspicious activities or crimes that have occurred,” Velazquez said. “They’re not as afraid as they used to be before.”

Dia del Nino, or Children’s Day, is a popular holiday in Latin America. The Westfield event will feature tables from the Westfield Washington Public Library, city services, Parent University, Westfield Welcome, Westfield Police Dept., Westfield Fire Dept., Westfield Youth Assistance Program and other organiziations. Limonez Catering and Red Habanero will provide food. There also will be a K-9 demonstration, face painting, airbrush tattoos, music and balloon artists.

“Our vision is to promote cultural diversity, appreciate the youth, give the youth a voice and also bring the community together,” Velazquez said. “We want the Latino community to be aware of all these services out there to be able to use. The police department, the Westfield Youth Assistance Program, some of the events the city hosts, they’re not just for a certain group, they’re for everybody. If you’re a resident of Westfield, you’re able to come out.”

Velazquez said there will be a public safety approach to the event.

“We will be giving some information to parents about Juuling. There’s a dental group coming out to give out free toothbrushes and toothpaste,” Velazquez said. “In a way, we have reached out to the community through the children. We can do this for your kids. They can see all the city’s offerings. They can meet police officers. They can meet firefighters. There’s just a bunch of different things out there for them so they can create a better future for themselves.”

The event is free and open to the public. For more, visit westfieldwelcome.com/event/diadelnino/.

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