There are season openings of all kinds. Then there’s Walk with Cops.
Walk with Cops?
This is a special and time-honored tradition that began over a quarter century ago and has never — ever — grown old.
Walk with Cops was founded by now retired Johnston Police Chief Richard S. Tamburini and has continued through the years on weekday mornings during the spring and summer months, weather permitting, inside the “The Jewel of Johnston” a.k.a. War Memorial Park as a unique way for the JPD to interact with the town’s senior citizens who reside in nursing and rehabilitation facilities.
There have always been many magical moments during the two-hour session last Wednesday morning when JPD Chief Joseph P. Razza, Deputy Chief Mark Vieira and other officers welcomed a host of senior citizens, who in most cases arrived by bus from residences like Cherry Hill Manor, The Bridge at Cherry Hill and Anchor Bay at Pocasset.
Likewise, Johnston Town Councilwoman Linda Folcarelli — who also serves as the JPD’s Community Liaison Officer — and her sister Donna arrived early and began placing white coverings accented with red and blue stars on tables that were adorned with small, flowered plants and chairs where the morning’s special guests would soon sit.
The sisters Folcarelli then decorated another table and placed mini-American flags amid decorative flowered plants and a blue banner with black lettering that read: “Walk with Cops … Johnston Police Department.”
Enter recently promoted Johnston Police Capt. Mike Babbitt who unloaded containers of hot coffee and boxes of freshly made donuts and muffins that all attendees and JPD officers would enjoy during the two-hour session that was filled with unmatched caring and camaraderie.
Within a few minutes, two buses from Cherry Hill Manor pulled into the sun-covered yet shaded wet end of the park and was followed by a bus from The Bridge at Cherry Hill and Anchor Bay at Pocasset.
Staffers from all three residences began unloading wheelchairs and walkers while other friendly folks made their way carefully to the “outdoor kitchen” where they were warmly greeted for Opening Day 2022.
“Oh, my goodness!” exclaimed Linda Folcarelli, as she scooted to the table to help her “buddies” Ernie and Leo take their seats. “I love these guys.”
Similar scenes were repeated until each chair was filled and volunteers like Pat Giardina — along with JPD officers like Luca Lancellotta and Johnston Town Councilman Robert Civetti — began talking, taking requests and serving cups of coffee, a variety of muffins and donuts.
But Walk with Cops isn’t just an early morning coffee and event.
That was obvious when Razza asked: “Does anyone want to walk?” And soon, almost each and every attendee and staffers from all three residences stood up to begin the morning’s traditional walk around what Razza called “our fantastic and beautiful park.”
Some folks walked slowly on their own while others used walkers and were also pushed around the entire park in their wheelchairs by Vieira, Lancellotta and Babbitt.
Perhaps Razza, who has never missed a “Walk with Cops” session, best summed up the season opening.
“It has been truly a special and amazing day to have the opportunity to engage with our seniors to kick off this year’s Walk with Cops program. This allows us to engage and interact with not only our senior’s population but for all members of the public who use this beautiful park during our walk. The members of the Johnston Police Department truly support the support of our residents, volunteers and community partners to make this program possible.”
Razza, as he and other JPD officers thanked people for coming and began tidying up the pristine park, added: “Have a great day and week; we’re looking forward to seeing everyone back here on June 30 for our second seasonal Walk with Cops.”
The event begins at 9:30 a.m. and is open to the public.
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