‘Pizza play time’ brings kids and cops together

Inspired by a police officer, discover why an unlikely philanthropist hatched a plan that helps young students meet law enforcement officers on friendly terms‚

Kelly Elementary School principal Sharon Allen introduces the originator of “Kids, Cops & Pizza”, David Yandell.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Radio Cab driver who put together the company’s Thanksgiving turkey dinner drive, and hatched a bicycle give-away program for needy kids, has come up with a new project: Connecting kids and cops.

“An officer inspired me to do this,” explains David Yandell. Asked about his philanthropy, Yandell says, “Two years ago, Radio Cab created a foundation to help with my projects. I’m not part of the foundation. I don’t like to be encumbered by the ‘four walls’ of an institution‚ they can’t fire me!”

The idea behind his current project, explains Yandell, is helping to keep kids safe. And, at the same time, to help youngsters understand that the police are their friends. “We’re creating a positive context for them to interact. If the kids were ambivalent before this event, I promise you they won’t be after this day.”

Dishing up pizza is Sgt. Tom Perkins, School Police; Officer Dave Thoman, School Police; Officer Hank Hays; and Sgt. John Anderson, East Precinct.

Plied with pizza
We catch up with Yandell at Kelly Elementary School on May 1. Portland Police Bureau East Precinct officers are working the cafeteria’s food line, dishing up a perennial lunch favorite, hot pizza!

While the kids dine, Yandell talks with them. His message is simple: “Cops are your friends. Get to know them for yourself, and you’ll agree.”

East Precinct Officer Mike Honl gets the “movie star” treatment from Kelly School kids. At their request, he signs his autograph on the backs of their hands.

Event promotes community safety
As class after class of students file out to the playground to meet the officers and tour waiting patrol cars, Sharon Allen‚ Principal of Kelly Elementary‚ takes a moment to speak with us.

“It is important that we have safe community,” says Allen. “Our police are part of that. We want our students growing up knowing how to be safe‚ and how to access help when they need it. The first place they should go is our Portland Police. I love seeing our officers taking time out of their busy days to participate.”

Playground full of squad cars
As smiling youngsters swirl around, begging him to autograph scraps of paper‚ or the backs of their hands‚ Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Officer Mike Honl returns their smile.

The students squeal with glee as they race around, climb around, and sit in one of the many patrol cars parked on the school’s playground.

“With some of the events we deal with day in and day out,” Honl tells us, “It’s nice to see these smiling faces. This is a great way to connect with kids, letting them know their police officers are helpers and friends.”

He adds he thinks being a cop is a wonderful career. “You really help other people. I want kids to understand that.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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