GENEVA – Geneva Police Officer Paul VanDorn smiled Wednesday morning as he carried a large card decorated with messages that was from students at Geneva Christian School.
VanDorn and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns were guests of honor at the school's Hero Day. Children from all grade levels sang, presented a list of the "top 10 reasons we love our hometown heroes" and provided the mayor and police officer with cards expressing their gratitude for what they do every day.
The students were joined by their parents and school officials in the chapel of Faith Lutheran Church.
"It was wonderful," VanDorn said. "It's nice to have the support of the community like this. … It's nice to know they understand what our job really is."
Burns praised the "caring and thoughtful students" and said he was honored to be at the event with VanDorn.
"What a great way to start a Wednesday," Burns said to those gathered at the event. He joked, "I'll be back next Wednesday for more cards and doughnuts."
It also was an opportunity for those at the school to celebrate with the community as the school's identity is now established after changes that recently took place. Geneva Christian School opened this year in the space that formerly housed Faith Christian Beginner School and Faith Christian Academy. Cathy Hill, president of the school board, said Geneva Christian School currently has 66 students through fourth grade, and there is a goal to offer fifth grade next year.
Hill said the idea of Hero Day was to provide a positive introduction to a police official and a city official.
"Children are getting a bit of a mixed message about police officers," she said.
Students said they worked on different parts of the project over a few weeks. Fourth-grader Micah Hermes, 9, from Maple Park, said students put together ideas for the top 10, and their teachers picked the best ones. During his part of the program, he read that a "hometown hero" is someone who is smart, someone who is awesome and someone who is strong. He said he has a positive view of police officers.
"I feel safe when I see them," he said.
Second-grader Audrey Smith, 7, of Geneva, read a part of the program that told Burns and VanDorn "you protect us as a role model." She said she enjoyed the event.
"I liked seeing the policeman and the mayor," she said.