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Local kids rally around Kissimmee Police Department

Posted on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Christian
For the News-Gazette
The Kissimmee Police Department recently received a much-appreciated outpouring of support from local students recently following the fatal shooting of two officers last month.
The KPD and nearby First United Methodist School have served as friendly downtown neighbors for years.
So, when Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard

Students at First United Methodist school showed an outpouring of support for the Kissimmee Police Department by visiting the station, bringing cards and other tokens of appreciation in the wake of two fallen officers.

lost their lives in the line of duty Aug. 18, the small private school showed sympathy and support for the local department the way good neighbors do.
“It was awful what happened, and we wanted to help somehow,” said Elizabeth Makinson-Fahey, a parent-volunteer at First United. “Even if it was small, we wanted to thank them and express our condolences.”
Makinson-Fahey brainstormed with other parents on ways to reach out to the nearby station. They first decided to donate money collected from four consecutive weekly chapel offerings, along with recent school fundraisers, to the bank account established for the families of the fallen officers. Makinson-Fahey said she hopes the check will help the officers’ loved ones during their time of need.
“But we wanted to do something else, too,” the Kissimmee parent said. “Something more personal.”
The week following the area tragedy, teachers at First United collected over 130 letters, cards, drawings and other written tokens of appreciation from students of all ages. From 3D art pieces to neatly written letters on notebook paper, 12 manila envelopes were ultimately stuffed with “thank you” cards and well wishes from the children.
Makinson-Fahey said she came up with the idea after speaking with a friend whose husband worked for the Orlando Police Department when the Pulse shooting occurred last year.
“My friend said her husband’s department was flooded with notes from local kids that meant a lot to the officers in the wake of what happened,” she said. “I thought that was a great idea.”
For an added personal touch, the 28 middle school students at First United made the short three-block walk to hand deliver the cards and letters to officers at the downtown station.
“It seemed appropriate to visit with a neighbor like that,” Makinson-Fahey noted.
Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell and about 18 other law enforcement officials were there to greet the children when they arrived.
The visit is one that O’Dell said he, along with the other station personnel, greatly appreciated.
“I believe almost everyone on duty at the time came to visit with the kids,” the O’Dell said. “I sincerely believe that is a testament to how much they needed this, and how much it meant to each
of them.”
Students were sworn in as honorary cops during their visit, complete with sticker badges and light-up keychains. The connection between the KPD and the school is a strong one; Officer Baxter had personally guided students across busy roads during their annual Christmas caroling route and gave an anti-bullying presentation in the school chapel last year.
Officers present on the morning of the student trip expressed their gratitude, fielded questions from the kids and even became the recipients of an impromptu speech delivered by one of the eighth graders.
Nick Bargelski, 12, said his parents raised him with a strong respect and appreciation for the men and women in blue. When the short field trip came to a close, Bargelski wanted to verbalize the sentiments expressed in the students’ many cards and letters.
“On behalf of all the students, I just thanked them for all that they do,” he said. “I just wanted to emphasize that officers are really amazing and that we’re thankful for them.”