HOLMDEL, NJ: Holmdel Preschool students celebrated Friendship Day in a special way on February 12. Twelve children and three teachers participated in Operation Gratitude, during which they presented a banner, Survival Kit bags, and sang songs to Holmdel Ptl. Mike Michalski, Ptl. Darryl Jackson, and K-9 Murph, who represented the Holmdel Police Department. Preschool Director Debbie Morgan explained that while Friendship Day is celebrated every year by focusing on acts of kindness and friendship within the school, along with parties, decorating, and cooking fun, this year had to be different due to the pandemic.

Ptl. Darryl Jackson (left) and Ptl. Mike Michalski

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“We decided to honor our Hometown Heroes, the Police Officers of Holmdel Township, as they are first on the list for the children to be grateful for,” said Morgan.

The children presented a banner that read #OperationGratitude, with the words “Holmdel Police We Love You!” and “We love our Hometown Heroes!”  Also on the banner were the children’s handprints, hearts, and drawings of police officers painted in blue, white, and grey paint. The children sang songs and presented the Officers with 12 blue bags filled with candy which pertained to a poem. Each bag had a tag stating “Law Enforcement Officer Survival Kit” and the following poem:

Lifesaver – To remind you you’ve been one. Starburst – For the burst of energy that you need. Hershey Kiss – To show our love for you. Gum – To help everyone stick together. Tootsie Roll – You have to roll with the punches. Peppermint Patty – Helping you keep your cool. Snickers – To help keep your humor! Thank you for all that you do! You are appreciated! You are our hometown heroes!

“The police officers really enjoyed the program and they loved the banner,” noted Director Morgan. “I think that was the most gratifying and the most touching to them.”

Officer Jackson said the children gave a great performance. “We were really appreciative. The support from them and from the staff was amazing. It was also great to see the kids practicing social distancing and wearing their masks. ”Accompanying him was his partner of a year and a half, K-9 Murph. He noted, “The children really enjoyed seeing him."


“Our profession affords us the opportunity to interact with the community on various levels,” Officer Michalski explained. “And, contrary to what many think, a very large percentage of those interactions are positive ones. This program was a prime example of that. Having a positive impact on our children in today’s society is critical in developing and maintaining relationships with them as they grow older.  The support we have received from the members of our community has been tremendous and this event was a great opportunity for us to show the children that the Police are their friend and here to help them. The kids did an excellent job with the presentation, and we thank them and the staff for their continued support, as well as the snacks they gave us for the guys at the station which were a big hit as always!”

The surprise ending for the children was when the officers exited the building, entered their cars and then gave a send-off with sirens blasting and lights flashing.

“The entire project imparted to the children a sense of community,” said Morgan. “Both the officers and the children felt a deep sense of gratitude for each other as they elbow-bumped and shared a day of friendship and community.  It was a great new way to celebrate Valentine’s Day – by being a friend!”

For Director Morgan, this project carried an important message, “Even in the most challenging times, we can count on children to put a smile on our faces and hearts and that no matter what – we need to be grateful for each other.”

The article above by Susan Murphy is part of a content sharing agreement between the publisher of this news site, and Community Magazine.