10-year-old pays surprise visit to Newark PD just to say ‘thank you’
When a 10-year-old girl from Tyler, Texas walked into the Newark Police Department last week, officers weren't sure what to think. Savannah Solis wasn't there to file a complaint or report an emergency - she simply wanted to say thank you.
Savannah, carrying a handmade thank you card and wearing a bright smile, visited the precinct bright and early on June 26. The Newark Police Department was one of several law enforcement agencies around the world that the energetic, young Texan has visited in the past year. Her goal is simple: Savannah just wants to thank police officers for the work they do and the risks they take.
"The Newark Police Division is pleased to have been selected by Savannah during her worldwide tour to thank law enforcement officers for the job they do everyday. We were surprised by her visit which was unexpected but pleased because we both appreciate and support her efforts," Newark Police Capt. Derek Glenn of the Public Safety Division told NJ 101.5.
During her visit, Savannah read a speech she had prepared, expressing her thanks. She was also able to meet with several officers and sit in a police vehicle.
Savannah's desire to express her gratitude for law enforcement began after she saw a report on the news about the Dec. 20, 2014 deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were gunned down at point-blank range in broad daylight while sitting in their police cruiser outside a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had boasted on social media hours before the shooting about wanting to murder police officers.
The young girl's mom, Debbis Solis, said the grim news prompted Savannah to begin making handmade thank-you notes for police. It started with a few, and increased to thousands.
"She just loves law enforcement," Solis said, adding that Savannah hopes to become a K-9 police officer when she grows up.
She's even recruited thousands of students around the world to join her in thanking police. Her movement - Help Savannah Say Thank You - has gone global with the help of a Facebook page that she and her family manage. The page has more than 5,000 likes, and many of those who follow the page are law enforcement, her mom said.
“She gets kids to appreciate law enforcement,” Debbie Solis said, adding that each time Savannah gives her speech, she looks the officers in the eyes. She's also met many family members of police officers which Solis says "puts a face behind the badge."
So far, more than 100,000 kids have taken the "Savannah Challenge." She's gone to other countries to speak to students about her mission.
“She’s challenging kids around the world to speak up for law enforcement,” Solis said, adding that students from as far away as Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Australia, Scotland, Switzerland and Israel have sent Savannah videos and notes showing her how they've joined the effort to say thank you to police.
Savannah said she enjoys challenging other children to follow suit because it benefits police and students alike. She said she has a lot of respect for law enforcement.
“I like that they get to go and save people and they sacrifice their lives every day and they deserve a thank you," she said. “I’m challenging other kids to do the same, and it makes them feel great."
To help her spread her message of gratitude, Savannah's family has opted to use their summer vacation to travel around the country, visiting police departments. Their visit to the East Coast included New Jersey, Washington D.C., Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. She's also been to Yankee Stadium and Arlington National Cemetery, among others and the family is now making its way west, stopping at places such as Birmingham, Ala.
Of all the places she's visited, though, Savannah said New Jersey was one of her favorites.
"They were nice and really fun and they liked hearing me talk," the young Texan said.
Newark police say they were equally as excited to welcome Savannah to the Garden State and they admire the message she's spreading.
"As the role of law enforcement officers becomes more challenging it's nice to see that someone as young as 10, is encouraging others to show support for the men and women who risk their lives daily to save the lives of others," Capt. Glenn said.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.