Kids for Kops ready to revive drive

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006



LAPLACE – Ten years after the initial &#8220Kids for Kops” program was begun, there appears to be a new push for the organization to have a national impact.

It was 10 years ago when St. John Sheriff’s Officer Barton Granier was killed in the line of duty, prompting a young, 12-year-old LaPlace girl to start a drive all by herself to raise money for bulletproof vests for all officers.

Stephanie &#8220Nikki” Wilking ended up getting national acclaim as she started &#8220Kids for Kops” right here in St. John Parish, eventually getting local businesses involved to help donate $30,000 for bulletproof vests for all local officers, since Granier did not have one on when he encountered the criminal who shot him.

Wilking died several years later from spinal meningitis, but now her younger sister Ashley has picked up the baton and wants to make &#8220Kids for Kops” an organization that goes national.

She spoke to the LaPlace Rotary Club this past week, saying that she wants to &#8220keep the dream alive” that her sister began.

&#8220It isn’t just important for kids to help officers with vests, but I want kids to be comfortable going up to an officer and having a conversation with them, and know how important they are to us all. We want to know that every officer is going to be safe, and go home to their family every night,” she said.

The LaPlace Rotary Club began the Stephanie Wilking Youth Leadership Award shortly after Nikki’s death, and continues to award a worthwhile young person in the community each year. Taylor Atkinson, a freshman who will be heading to Brother Martin High School this fall, was named for the award this year for his work at John L. Ory School as an eighth grader this past year.

But Ashley Wilking, in using the visit to the Rotary Club to thank the group for continuing the annual award, said she is now interested in making &#8220Kids for Kops” a national organization.

Beverly Harris, president for the Rotary Club, told her &#8220we have always supported this program, and you should know that we will always be here to support you in the future.”

Several of the Rotary Club members were original &#8220Kids for Kops” members with Nikki in their earlier days, and Lt. Michael Hoover of the St. John Sheriff’s Office, was a DARE officer who become a strong supporter of Nikki during her days running the program.