Officer Ryan Holland thought some freeze pops might be nice for the kids attending movie night at Douglass Park.
He’s ended up with enough treats to keep kids all over the city smiling all summer long.
As of Thursday, Holland, a neighborhood resource officer for the Georgetown Street and St. Martin’s Village area, had collected 71,202 freeze pops.
Holland said it all started when he attended a neighborhood meeting and volunteered to get a group to donate some popcorn and pops for the park’s movie night.
When he went to the park to deliver them, he encountered a group of kids attending a summer camp who asked if the goodies were for them.
Yes, Holland told the kids, they were.
After all, he reasoned, how hard would it be to get a few more freeze pops to replace them?
At around that same time, Holland stopped at the Douglass Park pool to deliver some donated kickboards and pool noodles to help kids taking free swim lessons there. He said he noticed that there was no concession stand, and it had been months since the vending machines had been serviced.
So Holland took to Facebook on June 12, asking for donations of freeze pops for the kids at the pool and those attending summer camps and programs in the neighborhood.
The next day, after receiving just three messages promising donations, he issued a mild complaint.
“Who doesn’t like smiling kids???” Holland wrote. “These popsicles are for kids that are going to programs that are designed to keep them out of trouble and give them a positive outlook on some of their current situations. It also helps bridge a gap between police and the neighborhood! It helps us build relationships with these kids that will last for decades! So you see, it’s more than just a bag of popsicles that I (am) asking for. I’m asking you to help me make a positive impact on young people’s lives in the West end of Lexington.”
After that, people headed for the frozen-foods aisle at the grocery store.
“It’s something that’s inexpensive, so everybody can get involved,” Holland said.
Along the way, two deep freezers were donated for storing the pops.
Because so many freeze pops were donated, they’ll be shared not only with kids at Douglass Park, but at the pool at Castlewood Park and other locations as well. Holland envisions officers working parades and other public events handing out pops to kids from coolers in their cruisers.
Holland isn’t done, though. He’s now collecting money to buy speakers for the pool at Douglass Park, since the water aerobics classes are currently using a portable stereo.
Holland and two fellow officers were honored by the police department recently for several community service projects, including efforts to restore the Cove Haven Cemetery, repaint the fence around Whitney Young Park and help a woman whose home on Ash Street is in very poor condition.
“It’s a unique position where you get to really get to know the people in the neighborhood,” he said.
And, he added, “If anybody ever needs popsicles for any kind of youth event, they can contact me.”