Students raise vest funds after learning by example

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2005



LAPLACE – It was nine years ago that a young student at John L. Ory Elementary in LaPlace did something quite amazing.

After a St. John Parish deputy was killed in the line of duty, young 13-year-old Stephanie “Nikki” Wilking took it upon herself to start a drive to make sure all parish law enforcement officers had bulletproof vests.

Wilking formed a group called “Kids for Kops,” which incredibly went on to raise $25,000 with the help of area residents and businesses.

Since that time, Wilking died when she was 17 from spinal meningitis. But her spirit lived on at Ory Elementary in the past month when students there joined L’Observateur and the St. John Sheriff’s Office in the new drive for bulletproof vests.

On Monday the students presented L’Observateur Publisher Kevin Chiri with a check for $475, enough to buy one bulletproof vest, in the current drive to outfit the officers on the St. John force.

“Nikki started this years ago at this school and we wanted to continue it,” Principal Teri Noel said. “And we were also motivated by the fact we have a number of kids here who have parents serving with the department.”

The students asked each child at the school to donate $1, which brought in over $400, then Noel said the students held a “can shake” for the remaining money.

“Obviously what Nikki Wilking did years ago was a fantastic thing,” Chiri remarked. “And to have the kids here do it in her memory, as well as to help this important campaign, was pretty special.”