by Lynn Meredith
Children are often the forgotten participants when a crisis strikes. If a family is involved in an accident, the police are called to a domestic crisis, or there’s a fire, the parents are involved in filling out paperwork and talking with the police, but what are the kids doing?
That’s the question the Maple Park Police Department hopes to address as it participates in the “With Wings and a Halo” R.E.A.C.H program. The program supplies police officers, ambulances and other workers who arrive on the scene of a crisis with children’s books, not only to keep the kids occupied, but to put a smile on their faces.
“Books will be the new tool the Maple Park Police Department will use to communicate with children in crisis situations,” Community Relations Officer Buz Hodges said. “The department’s and the organization’s mission is to ‘put a smile on the face of a child in the time of crisis.’”
The organization is called “With Wings and a Halo” R.E.A.C.H. It began after children’s author, Paul Scott Gilbertson from Wisconsin, visited the site of 9/11 and thought of all the children affected by the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. He created the program to help kids during tragedies.
“Each squad will carry a B.A.C.K. Be a Cheerful Kid packet with 12 to 15 books to be given to children involved in a stressful incident. The books are for children from 3 to 15 years of age and are donated to the police department at no cost by R.E.A.C.H.,” Hodges said.
Through individual donations, corporate gifts, grants and direct contributions, the organization has donated 60,000 books to departments in all 72 counties of Wisconsin and parts of Illinois. They have waiting lists for donations in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.
“It’s a good thing for kids in a bad situation and one more tool for our underfunded police department,” Hodges said.