Students in the West Hempstead School District created handmade cards to be distributed to police officers throughout the five boroughs on Dec. 11. Cards for Cops is a program sponsored by BeyondTheBadgeNY, a nonprofit started by West Hempstead alumna Michelle Panetta.
BeyondTheBadgeNY encourages positive relationships between local communities and law enforcement. It also aims to raise mental health awareness for police officers and believes small acts of kindness can make profound differences in people’s lives. Panetta’s niece inspired the idea for Cards for Cops.
“My husband is a police officer and my niece made a card for him to say thank you for keeping her and her friends safe,” Panetta said in a news release. “He still holds onto the card to this day, and that’s where my idea for Cards for Cops came from.”
Panetta receives thousands of cards from schools and community centers from throughout the state and introducing the program to West Hempstead schools was a natural step. Ryan Emmanuel-Cooke, director of arts for the district, was thrilled for the chance to have students spread positivity through creativity.
“A small gesture goes a long way and can help restore someone’s hope or maybe even change how they’re thinking during a hard time in their life,” Emmanuel-Cooke said. “And that is exactly what these cards will do.”
Students from Chestnut Street, George Washington and West Hempstead Middle School created handmade cards for police officers with sentiments of gratitude and well wishes. Some students also had the chance to give their cards directly to police officers.
Officers Serrano and Brown from the community affairs division in the Nassau County Police Department visited fifth-grade students at George Washington. The officers answered questions from students and led a thoughtful, positive conversation. At the end of the gathering, students excitedly gave the officers their cards. The officers returned the favor by handing out hacky sacks to the students.