Two siblings attending the free community National Night Out on Aug. 6 in Pioneer Park won the lottery so to speak. Their raffle tickets, entered in the grade category they wanted, scored each a new backpack for back to school.
Their mom told Crime Prevention Coordinator Vicki Ruley she was delighted and relieved as with reduced work hours she was concerned about affording her children’s school supplies.
“I think the backpack project helps a lot of families out and they had a fun night out at the same time,” Vicki said.
Young backpack recipient Owen Harvey and his mom stopped by the Walla Walla Police Department to drop off a thank-you note he wrote to K-9 Officer Farel. It included a drawing of the dog and a bone.
“Thank you so much for the backpack. I hope I can meet you some day, Love Owen,” he read aloud to WWPD Domestic Violence Officer and Backpack Project coordinator Chalese Rabidue.
This year the 86 backpacks handed out to young attendees were “gifted” by the WWPD’s K9 unit, with specially trained dog handlers Sgt. Gunner Fulmer with K9 Pick and Officer Travis Goodwin with K9 Feral.
The NNO Backpack Project started five years ago to help encourage people to register at NNO so hosts could tally numbers and ZIP codes of attendees, Vicki said.
When the kids register they also receive a Passport to Safety to take to various booths in the park and receive a stamp.
A completed passport could be turned in for another backpack raffle ticket. The raffle was called during the evening until every one was claimed.
Walla Walla Area Crime Watch sponsors the backpack project. Donations came from Columbia REA, Walmart, Staples, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AT&T FirstNet and several residents who dropped off or mailed checks and supplies to Crime Watch, said Vicki.
“The first four years of the backpack project we had several businesses drop off donated, filled backpacks. We put the business name on the backpack so that everyone could see where the backpack came from.”
Earlier in the year, WWACW stored about 32 backpacks purchased from downtown business Overstock, Vicki said.
For something fun, they added K9 trading cards to the backpacks and said they came from the K9 unit.
Through this year’s NNO event, WWACW has given away 286 backpacks in five years.
Plans are already afoot to continue the backpack project for NNO 2020. Donations may be made to WWACW Backpack Project, P.O. Box 216, Walla Walla WA 99362.
A large parade of emergency services vehicles started the event, held on the hottest day thus far of the summer, a roasting 104 degrees.
ES vehicle drivers reported more people and kids lined the parade route and waved.
“The participants in the parade really appreciated the support,” Vicki said.
Banner Bank employees and family members served 675 barbecued hot dogs alongside Domino’s Pizza, which served 850 slices of pizza, and 500 Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen went quickly, too.
The Walla Walla County Department of Community Health gave away 90 medicine lockboxes.
This is the 13th NNO in Walla Walla hosted jointly by the WWPD and WWACW.
For more details about NNO, the Backpack Project and WWACW programs, call Vicki at 524-4409.