'Positive interaction is No. 1': Coloring contest winners spend a day with Bemidji's first responders
Ten young coloring contest winners had an unforgettable day of fun with local police officers, deputies and firefighters on Saturday.
BEMIDJI — Ten young coloring contest winners had an unforgettable day of fun with local police officers, deputies and firefighters on Saturday.
In partnership with the Bemidji Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and Bemidji Fire Department, a group of children were chosen to participate in a special day of tours and activities after they were named the winners of a coloring contest that debuted at the Home, Sport and Travel Show.
“We talked about different ways that we could inspire kids and we decided that we would have a coloring contest," Bemidji Police Officer Tabitha Carrigan said. "(Each agency) created a coloring sheet of our patch and put them out to the community, not only at the Home, Sport and Travel Show, but also on Facebook for any kid ages 3-12 that wished to participate.”
After receiving entries, it was decided that 10 winners would be chosen to be invited to the prize day with officers, deputies and firefighters.
“We determined that the winners would have a private tour day with the heroes of our community," Carrigan said. "Just kind of a special day for the winners of the coloring contest we put on. “
On the morning of Saturday, April 22, those 10 winners gathered at the Beltrami County Law Enforcement Center to kick off their day with a tour of the dispatch center. They got to hear from telecommunications officer Amanda Pedersen, who talked with the group about how to call and text 911 and showed them how she finds addresses in her computer.
The group also had the chance to use Pedersen’s dispatch headset and radio to communicate with an officer, who was standing in a different room.
After Pedersen had a few participants use the radio to simply check in with the officer or ask his location, one child put the headset on and used the radio to ask the officer “What’s your favorite food?” and his answer of “Beef brisket and pulled pork” sparked laughter from the group.
Next on the schedule was a fingerprinting activity, where children were able to use ink and press their fingerprints on a piece of paper, using a fingerprint shape handout to determine whether their prints matched the pattern of a simple arch, radial loop, double whorl or somewhere in between.
Carrigan, along with Beltrami County deputies Josh Arhart and Scott Pula, also taught the group how to lift fingerprints off a surface.
Children pressed their fingerprints onto an empty pop can and brushed on black powder to see the print, then used clear tape to lift their prints off the can.
The tour continued through the law enforcement center and down to the lower level, where participants got to sit in a police car, experience what it's like to be handcuffed, and try on police and sheriff vests.
After the tour was complete, the group walked to Bemidji Fire Station 1 to meet with firefighters and take rides in a fire engine. Children also had the opportunity to go through a firefighter obstacle course where they were tasked with crawling through a tube, unrolling a fire hose and dragging a mannequin across the floor while the rest of the group cheered them on.
After a long morning of tours, activities and firefighter training, participants finally got to kick back and relax alongside first responders for a pizza lunch to wrap up the day.
While the agencies have held coloring contests in the past, Carrigan said this year's prize has been the most eventful, and possibly impactful, experience they've ever awarded to the contest's winners.
“We give tours all the time to different groups or kids, but they’re not normally this in-depth so we were super excited to put this together and give them a personal tour,” she said. “And maybe it will inspire one or two of them to go into law enforcement or firefighting.”
While sparking interest in the career field could be a benefit, for Carrigan the most important outcome of the day is that the children were able to build relationships with their local first responders.
“Mostly we want positive interaction, that positive relationship knowing that they can come to us and we’re here for them in whatever setting that may be,” Carrigan explained. “These 10 children get this positive day with us where they can ask us any question and be involved. Positive interaction is No. 1.”