Walk with Cops draws to an emotional close

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There was a special sense of community caring last Thursday morning inside Johnston War Memorial Park.

Never before, at least not in recent memory, has the award-winning “Walk with Cops” program – which was founded 24 years ago by Chief Richard S. Tamburini – had such a seasonal farewell as it did during last Thursday morning’s closing.

“The goal of the Johnston Police Department for the last 24 yeas of the Walk with Cops program is to present a personal touch as we interact with our senior citizens,” Tamburini said. “We attempt to restore peace of mind to ensure our citizens that the officers of the JPD are concerned for their safety and well-being and are only a phone call away.”

First and foremost, Johnston businesses like Brewed Awakenings, Cherry Hill Grill, McDonald’s and The Bridge at Cherry Hill made sure there was an abundance of breakfast food and beverages for the season’s finale.

Moreover, Johnston Police Capt. Chris Correia – who is commander of the Traffic & Special Services Bureau – completed his first-ever season of “Walk with Cops.”

Likewise, Linda Folcarelli – whom Tamburini tabbed to help coordinate volunteers and the walk – was at her all-time best, as Tamburini said she was “making people feel happy and welcome.”

Marty Church, who serves as president of the Pell Manor Tenants Association, and John Teolis were among the volunteers busy pouring coffee, receiving assistance from familiar faces Chris and Pat Giardina.

Even the traditional walk around Johnston War Memorial Park had an extra large group of participants, which Tamburini and Jane Cimaglia from The Bridge at Cherry Hill led.

“Today seems extra special,” Folcarelli said while helping three women get to the starting line.

Perhaps Chris Giardina and Maria Lourenco best epitomized what “Walk with Cops” is all about later in the festivities.

Giardina – who dabbles in T-shirt making and has long opened his heart and lent a helping hand to people of all ages – presented a specially made shirt to Vinny DiDonato in memory of his late brother Joseph DiDonato, who was the first Johnston resident killed during the invasion of Normandy back in 1944.

“There’s not a dry eye in this park,” Folcarelli said after the presentation. “Vinny is obviously thrilled, and speechless.”

Correia, meanwhile, then introduced Lourenco, who issued a heartwarming message and special “thank you” to Johnston Police while also expressing her feelings as to just what the “Walk with Cops” means to her.

“Dear Capt. Correia, chief of police, volunteers and every body else, I would like to thank you all for all the kindness and friendship you showed us during our walks with you,” she said. “I had a great time … I will keep all the memories in my heart. Thank you for bringing sunshine in our lives. All the angels are watching over you. I will keep all the memories in my heart!”

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