YONKERS, N.Y. – A group of Yonkers students enjoyed a day at the park Thursday, compliments of city police.
More than 200 special education children from four Yonkers schools soaked in the summer weather at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow as part of the annual “Handicapped Children’s Picnic.”
With cloudless skies above, children ran through the spacious park overlooking the Hudson River, playing kickball, enjoying hot dogs and meeting a pair of K-9 police dogs.
They even got to toast marshmallows over the fire, a brand new experience for many.
“They love it,” said teacher Hillary McCormick. “It’s a great, special day for them.
The annual picnic has been held for years by the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association and the city’s Captains, Lieutenants, and Sergeants Association as part of National Police Week. Police pay for buses and food while providing entertainment as the students, ages 6 to 21, get a day off from school.
For many of the children, a day in the park is a rare, and special, treat. Because of their conditions, they don’t often get to go outside and have chances to interact or socialize with others, teachers said.
“A lot of these guys come to school and go home and that’s it,” said Yonkers Montessori Academy teacher Jim Sutton. “They’re limited in what they can do. So this is good exposure and a very good opportunity for them.”
Joshua Aguirr, a fourth grader at School 13, said he had been looking forward to the picnic for some time.
“This is awesome,” the 10-year-old said. “We got to play soccer and meet the police dog.”
His classmate, Cody Martin, 8, said meeting Mickey, the four-year-old German Shepard that is part of the Yonkers K-9 unit, was the highlight of his day too.
“I like the dog because he was well-trained,” he said.
But the children aren’t the only ones who get excited for the picnic. Organizer and retired Yonkers police captain Frank Messar said the annual outing is something the officers look forward to as well.
This type of setting gives the officers a chance to play with the kids and interact with them in a way they can’t when they are on-duty, he said. And many, like himself, continue to come back even after they have left the department.
“When you’re off-duty you can get down in the dirt with them, play kickball with them, let them throw water balloons at you,” Messar said.
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