Nearly 20 children turned out for the “Badges and Bullseyes” event last Tuesday morning at the Lincoln County Sports Club, thanks to bussing transportation courtesy of Wendorf Bus Service and the Merrill Parks and Recreation Department.
The event is funded by Sussex, WI based “Cops and Kids” foundation which also funds similar events including “Cops and Bobbers,” which was held in Tomahawk on July 14, and “Gutter Busters” held Thursday afternoon at Les and Jim’s Lincoln Lanes.
According to the foundation, “The programs are designed to encourage positive interactions between law enforcement and the community, specifically children. These programs allow cops and kids to have fun together while teaching them positive alternatives to commiting crimes.”
In attendance at Tuesday’s event were Merrill Police Chief Ken Neff, Captain Corey Bennett, Lieutenant Chris Hartwig and Investigator/School Resource Officer Mark Heckendorf.
Local participation in the program stemmed from Parks and Rec Dept. Administrative Assistant Dawn Smith discovering the foundation website.
“Chief Neff and I had previously discussed different programming ideas for kids to interact with officers of the Merrill Police Department,” Smith explains. “When I found the site we met to discuss these programs and decided it was a great idea! This would be a great way to show kids how officers are people they can talk to and have fun with.”
As Neff explains, it seems apparent the goal of the program was met, and then some.
“I think everyone had a lot of fun up there,” he said. “We had three department members participate other than myself so I was very happy about that. But most of all I was very pleased with the interaction between the kids and our officers.”
It was apparent at first some of the kids were a little shy, but it only took a little while and they were laughing and having fun. That’s what these programs are all about. Many of the kids had never picked up a bow before Tuesday, so they ended up learning a lot.
“Lieutenant Hartwig opened things up with a brief safety demonstration regarding archery and the rest of the day was all about the kids learning and interacting. I’m excited to continue the program next summer.”
Children from Parkside Preschool received an opportunity to participate in the program as well, and according to director Paula Koelsch, so far it has been a hit with the children.
“The kids had so much fun at Cops and Bobbers and from what I have heard so far they had a pretty good time at Badgers and Bullseyes too!”
“We are so grateful able to collaborate this year with the MARC program and their offering us the opportunity to participate in this grant program!”
“Cops and Kids” Foundation president Bob Kraemer was in attendance also on Tuesday.
“We obtained a three year grant to run these programs,” Smith adds. “Mr. Kraemer came up to see our program for himself and he was really very pleased with what he saw. We had a good turnout in terms of both officers and kids and the interaction was great. He was happy to see that.”
As a result, Smith announced on Monday the foundation had donated nine Genesis™ Compound Bows for future use in the program.