"Dear Police, thank you for all the work you do at your job and not at your job." Noah Drange
That was one of many quotes Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary students shared Wednesday with law enforcement from the Wadena County Sheriff's Office, Wadena police, Verndale police, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota DNR and Minnesota State Patrol at the third annual "Lunch with Law Enforcement" event at the school.
The event, led by the president of the Wadena-Deer Creek parent/teacher organization Alicia Wynn, is put on as a way to get students exposed to a side of the officers they may not normally see. In the lunchroom, officers passed out sticker badges and sat with students as they ate. They joked with each other while sipping coffee and sharing cookies.
Wynn said the lunch is a way to let the kids see officers in a positive view and it allows the kids to show their appreciation to them. Many said "thank you" as officers sat at the lunch tables. This year students and faculty that were family members of law enforcement wore "Back the Blue" T-shirts so others could see that the officers are real people with families like them.
Some students were curious about the officers, asking them about their duty belts, wanting to see the handcuffs and wondering if they knew their parents.
"Some we have taken in, some we don't know," Wadena County Deputy Sheriff Tim Stroeng said.
Stroeng, who's been in law enforcement for 18 years, said the annual event is a good way to get close to the students and joke around with them to give them a positive experience.
Minnesota State Patrol officer Isaac Ray, was one of the many officers who had a son or daughter at the school. He has two boys, Dominic and Joseph, and said he enjoyed getting to see them at school. The boys friends seemed to be excited to see him too.
"They are proud of what I do," Ray said.
Another girl proudly wearing the "Back the Blue" T-shirt was Addison Carr, whose dad is Verndale Police Chief Cory Carr. She's glad her dad is a police officer and said most of her friends are impressed by his profession. She helped pass out cookies to law enforcement and students.
"I like it because some kids say, 'Oh I've never seen real handcuffs before,'" Addison said. "Boys are quite scared of the police, girls think they're cool."
Students left the lunchroom proudly wearing their badges and perhaps a new view of law enforcement.
After lunch with the students, the group went to the gymnasium where students thanked the officers with a goody bag and even sang them a song to thank them for their work in the community.