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South Valley Journal

Unified Police Bring Easter Bunny to Special Needs Students

May 05, 2016 03:29PM ● By Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

South Valley - The Easter Bunny and his friends in the Unified Police Department brought gifts and smiles to special needs students at Kauri Sue Hamilton School on March 31. 

“This is an annual event for us, and frankly, it’s one that we have on our calendar for years out,” Shane Hudson, deputy police chief, said. “We love coming here, being able to interact with the kids, hopefully bringing a smile to their face. This is as much beneficial for us and our members as is it for these kids.”

Since the school’s opening in 2009, Salt Lake County Sherriff Jim Winder has organized yearly Easter Bunny visits to the school. This year, two Easter Bunny mascots, a cop dog mascot and around 20 officers visited classrooms. Officers passed out bunny stuffed animals and gave students sticker police badges. 

“This is an important event for our school because our kids wouldn’t be able to stand and wait in line at a mall or something to go see the Easter Bunny,” Principal Rita Bouillon said. “Having the Easter Bunny come somewhere where they already feel comfortable and safe is important. This is the only chance they may get to see the Easter Bunny.” 

The students, age 5 to 22, took turns hugging and sitting by the Easter Bunny, while police officers played and talked with the other students. 

“Some of the students are scared of the bunny, but those who are usually love the officers,” Bouillon said, motioning to a 7-year-old student who had both her arms around one officer. 

Sierra Klemen, who’s worked for Kauri Sue for three years, said students love the male police officers because most of the workers at the school are female, so the students are not as used to seeing strong, caring males in the community. She said she also thinks the “giant animated characters” are good for the special needs’ children’s visual sense development. 

Not all students were scared of the Easter Bunny. Some hugged him, high-fived him, and one even called out to him. 

“Bunny. Give me bunny,” Joanie Bosche, student, said. “Give the bunny a hug.” 

When it was her turn to see the Easter Bunny, officials wheeled her chair up to the front of the classroom so she could sit right next to the bunny and wrap her arms around him. Joanie grinned and held her green stuffed bunny on her lap as pictures were taken of her and the mascot. 

“Every year you come you kind of get more used to how each kid will act because these kids are here until they are 22 years old,” Sgt. Cammie Skogg said. “There are a few that always stand out in your mind because of their personalities. Even the kids that probably don’t remember you, you have a nice connection with.”

Skogg, who has helped to plan the event for the past six years, said signup sheets for coming to Kauri Sue Hamilton School each spring fill up immediately after they are posted. She said she’s glad she helps to plan the event, so she doesn’t have to worry about not getting a spot at the school. 

The department tries to limit how many volunteers come to the school because they don’t want to overwhelm the kids. They usually bring about 24 officers, Skogg said. 

Coming to Kauri Sue at Easter time is also one of Winder’s favorite community outreaches to participate in, but he was unable to attend this year because he was at the funeral for a protective services officer. 

“He was trying to come to both, but the timing didn’t work out,” Skogg said. “He would have really liked to be here.”

Hudson hopes the volunteers and the students at Kauri Sue Hamilton School know how wonderful the members of the department think they are. 

“This is an important event for us,” Hudson said. “We’ll look forward to next year.”