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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Girl Scouts are using their 92nd birthday -- along with the anniversary of Elizabeth Smart's return home -- to encourage a statewide focus on child safety.
Ed Smart appeared with Girl Scouts officials at the group's state headquarters Thursday to announce the Partners in Safety initiative, scheduled to start on March 12. On that day, open houses will be held at police stations and city halls throughout the state, lasting for two hours and aimed at educating children about safety and self defense.
"Every child is a gift, and we want to protect them," Smart said. "Every time there's a high-profile abduction, fear creeps into children, and it's taking away the innocence they have."
The Girl Scouts say each site will have different activities, but all will have at least a large pledge poster for visitors to sign vowing a commitment to child safety.
Other groups, which will conduct activities at various sites, include radKIDS, which teaches self-defense tips, and KinderVision, which produces videos designed to teach kids safety tips through repetition.
Organizers say Utah is the first state to make such an effort on a particular day, but they hope to start a nationwide trend.
"We've got kids across the country who need our commitment," said Elaine Gause, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Utah.
At least 25 locations are signed up to participate, and organizers say more are being added leading up to the anniversary.
Smart is passionate about the issue because his daughter was allegedly kidnapped by a homeless couple and kept as the man's second wife for nine months in Utah and California. They were found March 12 about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City. The suspects are awaiting trial.
But Smart stopped short of saying the training would prevent an abduction like Elizabeth's.
"There are always going to be situations," he said. "But we're hoping this will empower children."
Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)