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Day of Thanks

Police officers thanked by schoolchildren

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RONAN – Law enforcement officers and a K9 unit moved through the K. William Harvey Elementary School on Friday among dozens of children to answer questions and receive a bit of swag.  

The event was organized by school staff to bring the community together and thank the officers for their service. In full uniform, the officers waited at lunch tables in the cafeteria with a stack of books in front of them. As they arrived at school, the children sat down to listen to a story. You might think the activity would make the kids sleepy in the early morning hours but they were full of happy energy as they talked and laughed. 

Several children went around collecting the autographs of all the police officers in the room from the Polson Police Department, the Ronan Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “It is so awesome that the police are here; what they do is so awesome,” said Sakora Kuntz, 9. She displayed her arm to show the police autographs she had collected.

Justina Nicolai, 9, was writing her signature on a poster during the event. “We are all signing this for the cops,” she said. “They are nice and help us a lot, so we wanted to thank them.” 

Along with the reading program, the forth-grade students in the Leadership Group collected donations from the community to create a gift basket for the police officers. 

“We do several things with the group,” said Leadership Group member Hadassah Read, 9. “We do a food drive and collect food for the food pantry. We basically keep track of the food. We also give gift baskets to the police.” 

She said the students like to be kind and share. “It feels good to be ‘share-full,’” she said. “And I think the police are a blessing. They keep us safe, so we wanted to give them something.”

Teacher Alicia Hakes organizes the Leadership Group and said this is the third year for the program. Children in the fourth grade are invited to join the group to practice leadership skills and choose community service projects. “This gives them a connection to the community,” she said of the community service projects. 

Ronan Police Chief Ken Weaver looked into the gift basket and said: “This is like the Oscars, and we got swag,” he said of the cookies, chips and other snacks. Weaver said he was impressed with the signs the children made and intends to hang them up at the department, which included a signed banner from all the children and a poster from the kindergarten with painted handprints on it. 

Weaver said developing a relationship between law enforcement and the community is important. “We want to be involved in our community whether it’s with children or seniors. It is important to break down the stigma that officers are unfriendly and don’t smile. We are human and are here to help.”

Ronan Police K9 Sandor was at the event to interact with the children. “He is our good-will ambassador,” Weaver said of the dog. He sat and watched while his handler signed autographs and talked with the children. 

The officers stopped by a few of the classrooms to continue reading with the kids and answer questions. Polson Police Department Patrol Officer Hunter Balmer was asked by one student about how he got his job. “The most important thing was that I went to school,” Balmer said. “Education is very important.”

The kids also wanted to know what was on the officer’s police utility belt and he told them, but then, one student started thinking about how the handcuffs were used. “Do you arrest people that are bad?” a child asked. “I do arrest people,” Balmer said. “But getting arrested doesn’t mean a person is bad. It just means they made bad choices.” The child looked at Balmer: “Like robbing a bank, that’s a bad choice.” Balmer answered: “That is a very bad choice.” Another child asked, “So what else do you do?” Balmer said: “I protect the community, which includes arresting people and talking to kids like you. It’s all about the community.” 

 

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