Police canines will be a little safer, thanks to students at Suverkrup.
Through a catalog fundraiser, students at H.L. Suverkrup Elementary School collected enough money to purchase two ballistic vests for the Yuma Police Department's K-9 Unit.
Kids on campus raised over $2,000 to purchase vests for K-9 officers Mitch and Barry, both Belgian Malinois dogs.
“It made me heartbroken to see that these dogs didn't get any vests, so I asked my principal if I could help,” said sixth-grader Raul Pereda. “It was really nice to do this ... I love dogs. I want to make sure they're safe.”
He added that he enlisted the help of his parents and other family members to make sure the funds were collected. “I got so excited, I didn't know we could get so much money.”
Fourth-grader Anthony Perez said he was glad they had enough money to buy both vests. “It's important to buy vests for the dogs in case they need them for emergencies.”
Pereda, 12, and Perez, 10, were selected to present the vests to YPD at an assembly Wednesday.
Suverkrup Principal Kari Neumann said she came up with the idea to purchase the bulletproof vests after speaking with Officer Stephanie Malone, a K-9 handler.
“I asked her if the dogs had vests. She said no, there wasn't money in the budget for that,” said Neumann, who decided that was something the students might like to raise money for.
“I challenged our students with the idea and they were very motivated.”
Neumann said they initially were hoping to collect $1,000 to buy a vest for Malone's dog, Mitch, but added that they quickly surpassed their initial goal.
“We found some vests that were $700 each so we were able to buy one for Mitch's buddy, too,” said Neumann.
Malone said she has been Mitch's handler for about a year and added that she was very grateful for what the students did for her K-9 partner.
“This is my dream job, this is the reason I became a police officer almost 11 years ago ... It was fantastic to see how the kids all came together to help us. It's really a testament to the kids in the community.”
She said that often people don't realize that K-9 officers put their lives on the line every day just like their human counterparts. “For the police working dogs, it's nice to have (vests) because the dogs do go into dangerous situations just like the officers do.”
The extra $600 raised Suverkrup students was donated to the Humane Society of Yuma toward the building of its new shelter. The students did a campus fundraiser for HSOY earlier in the year, pushing the amount collected for the organization this year past the $3,000 mark.
“Our school's name will be on the wall of the whole kennel at the new shelter,” said Neumann.
She said that not only do these fundraisers support animals in Yuma, but the community as a whole.
“Our school is a part of the community ... We don't want to just ask for things, we want to give things back to the community, too.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.