GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For a few hours Thursday afternoon, the parking lot behind the Boys and Girls Club on Straight Avenue was filled with kids climbing in and out of a truck and Humvee that belonged to the Michigan Army National Guard.
Kids pretended to drive them, put on gear, and said they had an all-around good time.
“Lots and lots and lots and lots of fun” is how 8-year-old Aria described the event. “We got to eat that food, and we’re getting to go in that truck.”
Aria pointed to the truck that had a line of kids waiting to be hoisted inside. Others were nearby on the lawn eating burgers that GRPD cooked for them.
“It was so fun,” said 11-year-old Gary. “We got to see the blinker and see the buttons and stuff.”
“But we didn’t get to press nothing,” Sarai added.
However, they did get to ask questions about how things work, while interacting with the National Guard.
GRPD said that was the goal.
“We have another program with the Boys and Girls Club called Pathways to Policing, which shows club kids what the police do on a regular basis,” said officer Ray Erickson. “I thought I’d like to expand that program to ones that are a little younger that can’t be a part of that to show them that there’s not just the police, there’s not just the fire department but there’s also ambulance and the military that help with public service in general.”
GRPD said it’s also an event that they enjoy too. It gives them a chance to connect with the kids in a productive and fun way.
“I think it’s a different aspect outside of the police cruiser that these kids can kind of get their hands on and really experience [this] from a first-person point of view,” he said.