By Jim Newell
Floor hockey, basketball, ping pong, board games and gym activities. And pizza to fuel the fun.
Just watch out for the cops. They might steal the basketball or swipe the puck during floor hockey.
The Lake Orion Police Association – the officers of the Lake Orion Police Department – brought back the Kids & Kops activities night on Friday at Blanche Sims Elementary for the first time in nearly a decade.
“The beauty of this program is that the officers don’t just supervise, we jump right in and play with them – floor hockey, shooting baskets, board games,” Narsh said.
“The whole idea, especially with young kids, is to learn that we’re people, too, and we care about them. We want to develop a relationship that will, hopefully, last a lifetime. So, when they’re in high school they’ll see an LOPD officer and say, ‘Hi officer, I remember you from Kids & Kops.’ And with that they have a trust that only comes from this type of program. And that’s invaluable.”
In just four days, Narsh said 85 kids registered for the first Kids & Kops on Friday. “And we have a healthy mix of boys and girls.”
Fifteen LOPD officers volunteered for Kids & Kops. The police association held a fundraiser at Fork n’ Pint in October, raising $2,300, to support the program but hopes to hold more, Narsh said.
The LOPD used to hold the Kids & Kops nights but stopped after the Boys & Girls Club folded.
“Tonight is the first time in eight or nine years, since around 2008-2009,” Narsh said. “It’s been driving us nuts and we’ve been talking about it and talking about it so we started it up again.”
There are two more Kids & Kops evenings this year — March 23 and April 6 — but the LOPD wants to run the program every other Friday from Nov. 1 through March 31 in 2018-2019.
Blanche Sims Principal Ken Nuss joined the kids and cops for a little fun and supports the program, adding he was pleased that more kids signed up than were expected.
“Chief Narsh came to me and asked me about it and we were all for it. Anytime we can involve the kids in school beyond the school day we support it, especially with our police officers. We say that we are a community school and this backs up what we say every day,” Nuss said.
“It means a lot to us because we want the kids to know that school is a happy place beyond the school day. That it’s a place where they can be safe, secure and have fun and learn at the same time. This just reinforces that to the kids,” Nuss said. “One thing I’ve learned about our community – they want to be involved in activities, especially activities with the school.”
The LOPD is partnering with the Orion Area Youth Assistance, and OAYA volunteers helped supervise and played with the kids. Gina Adams, treasure of the OAYA board, took a break from floor hockey to share her thoughts on the partnership.
“I’m really excited about the partnership we’re going to have with Kids & Kops program,” said Adams. “I’m so excited that it’s off to a good start. With the way that the youth assistance program is there to try and help families and strengthen them and be there for them, this a good way we can partner with the LOPD and the officers can build relationships with the kids.”
Security is always a concern for parents and Narsh said the school building is locked down with someone monitoring the front entryway throughout the Kids & Kops night.
“With the incidents going on in the country right now – and the kids may not fully understand it, but they see it on TV – we want to reinforce in their hearts and minds that schools are a fun, safe place,” Narsh said.
The program is currently only at Blanche Sims, the lone elementary school in the village limits, but Narsh knows there’s interest in the program from other areas in Orion as well and hopes to expand in the future.
LOPD Officer Paul Leming runs the Kids & Kops program and the LOPD is fine with the program continuing to grow. “He said, ‘The more kids, the more chaos, the better I am,’” Narsh said.
Anyone who wants to donate to the program can contact the LOPD at 248-693-8323. Donations and checks can be made to the Lake Orion Police Association, 21 E. Church St., Lake Orion, MI 48362, with Kids & Kops in the memo line.