One woman’s attempt to stay warm this winter released an outpouring of support for Superior crossing guards.
“This really showed what kind of people live in Superior,” said Alicia Hailey. “We always get a bad rap, but our people are amazing.”
The story starts with Hailey but it ends with everyone.
“It’s about our community coming together and being awesome,” she said.
Hailey began working as a crossing guard this fall, taking the post near Bryant Elementary School that Tom Cannon held for more than a decade.
“He is a legend, a hometown legend,” Hailey said.
The stay-at-home mom only lives a few blocks away from her crossing at the intersection of Tower Avenue and N. 60th Street. She was motivated to take the job by her past. Friendly crossing guards brightened her walk to Blaine Elementary School as a child, and she decided to pass that on.
“Hey, I could make some kid’s day,” the Superior woman said.
Since October, Hailey has spent every weekday morning and afternoon on the corner, shepherding children across the busy street.
“The kids are really great, a lot of residents walk by every day; business owners are real nice,” Hailey said. Cannon drops by once a week to check on her and drivers often wave. Not all of them are paying attention, however.
The speed limit is 30; sometimes cars go by twice that fast, Hailey said. “I’ve almost been hit several times,” she said. One car drove by so close she was able to reach out and tap on the rear window.
The other down side of the job is winter weather.
“It’s cold on the corner,” Hailey said.
She needed something warm that would also be bright enough to catch the attention of motorists. With two little boys at home and a tight budget, the Superior woman launched a private gofundme site for family and friends to raise the $100 needed for a pair of high-visibility, insulated bib overalls. They would be added to her current gear - a blaze orange coat and stop sign. Within an hour, she had reached her goal. An hour later, her sister-in-law from New Richmond, Wis., chipped in another $100 and Hailey decided to go public with the site to see if she could outfit all 11 city crossing guards.
“It just took off,” she said. “It brought out the best in people.”
Within five days the site raised all $1,100 needed, plus an extra $100 that will be divided between Superior’s elementary schools.
“People are so giving,” Hailey said. “They appreciate crossing guards so much.”
Superior Traffic Sgt. John Kiel wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of warmth.
“The crossing guards stand outside in all weather conditions to make sure school children cross our busy streets safely,” he said. “Their presence is very much appreciated by the children, their parents and the police department.” They develop a rapport with the kids and get to know them by name.
In addition to Superior residents, one former student crossing guard sent a donation from Bosnia. Jack’s Spur and customers at the 58th Street Diner chipped in. Many who donated left messages on the site.
“Thank you for keeping our children safe,” wrote Debbie Kurtz.
“Take care of each other and you will be taken care of too,” wrote Diane Lanford.
The lime green legwear arrived with an added bonus - high-visibility caps for each crossing guard donated by the manufacturer, Hi Vis Supply. All but two of the crossing guards had received their new thermal bibs by Friday. Some were sporting them Monday.
“My husband tells me I look ridiculous,” Hailey said. “That’s the point. I’m trying to stay safe for the kids.”
The new gear beats her old hunting bibs for warmth.
“You can’t feel the wind at all,” Hailey said. “Most days I sweat in them.”
She encouraged motorists to be on the lookout for city crossing guards. Distracted drivers, often on their cell phones, have narrowly missed kids, the crossing guard herself, and caused fender benders in South Superior.
According to the law, if the driver of a vehicle approaches a crossing guard and the crossing guard gives a direction to stop, the vehicle operator must stop no less than 10 feet from the crossing guard. The driver must remain stopped until the crossing guard directs the operator to proceed.
As added incentive for motorists to pay attention, crossing guards can report vehicles that fail to stop to the police department. Those drivers can expect a $188 citation in the mail.
“So you better stop at the crosswalks,” Hailey said.
No matter how big a hurry you’re in, she said, “I guarantee those kids are more in a hurry to get home.” Some face a walk of up to two miles in the cold.
Anyone who missed the fund drive can still show their appreciation for school crossing guards with a wave, smile and attentive attitude.
Wisconsin’s annual Crossing Guard Recognition Week runs Jan. 12-16.