AKRON, Ohio - Officers and deputies from multiple agencies across Summit County converged on the county fairgrounds Thursday in an exercise intended to generate goodwill between law enforcement officers and kids.
'Carnival with a Cop' is a spin-off of the holiday program 'Christmas with a Cop,' during which officers use contributions to go gift shopping with children. The summertime program allows them to escort kids through the fairgrounds, enjoying the rides and exhibits at no cost to the children.
"Through donations they get entrance into the fair. They get ride passes -- they can ride rides, we have lunch and at the end of the day Target donated backpacks full of school supplies," said Summit County Sheriff's Office Inspector William Holland.
Thursday's outing included more than 70 children who were nominated by school resource officers and others. Some of the children had never been to a fair.
"The most valuable thing of the day is they get to interact with law enforcement -- police officers, deputy sheriffs -- on a personal level to see that we are just human beings and we like to have fun and have positive interactions with the kids," said Holland.
"It's fun first of all. It's an opportunity for me to get to know the kids and for them to get to see me on their level riding the rides, enjoying the rides, having fun and just so they can see I'm a person and not a police officer," said Akron Police Officer Lauri Natko.
The children boarded school buses at the University of Akron and from there were given a police escort to the fairgrounds.
The Summit County Sheriff's Office, The University of Akron Police Department, City of Akron Police Department, Fairlawn Police Department, Copley Police Department, Lakemore Police Department, and the Summa Police all escorted kids.
"You hope that they take it in that cops show love and support and devotion to these kids. It means a lot to them to see these cops come off the streets and take the time to be able to do the things that they do. It's really fun," said Brian Davis, a parent who was along for Thursday's trip.
Thomas Smith of Akron was another parent there with a son and daughter.
"It's good, its good to see him enjoy himself, see all the law enforcement in a positive light and just see my son, as well as my daughter, be able to enjoy and partake in something like this," said Smith.
The entire outing was made possible by contributions from Lisko Family Amusements, which provided the ride armbands; Young’s Screenprinting, which provided T-shirts; Bush Concessions, which provided food and the Summit County Fair Board which provided admission, in addition to private contributions.
"I've seen deputies and police officers with two months experience and some with 25-30 years and it's because they want to be here. They want to interact with kids and just have a good time," said Holland.