Reality television star Leland Chapman of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” fame thinks every school in America should have a police officer patrolling the halls daily.
That’s why he didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked to visit Wellington and attend an event last Thursday to support Wellington’s school resource officer program.
The SRO program was cut at the end of the last school year when the district faced a $2.4 million deficit. Eliminating the program saved the district more than $33,000.
It was revived this month when Forest City Technologies donated $10,000 and Fort’s Tavern donated $200 to keep it afloat.
Chapman said he was happy to be helping such a worthy cause. As a father of three children, he finds ensuring children’s safety at school vital.
“It can potentially create more jobs and it gives peace of mind and reassurance,” he said. “Children are the pride and joy in life. Why not protect them?”
He’s hopeful his visit to the village has a snowball effect that gets the community interested in helping out.
Steve Neff, owner of Wellington Music, has been spearheading the campaign to raise money for the SRO program. He worked with colleague Justin Van Stee to bring Chapman to town.
“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” Neff said. “Ultimately it’s the kids that win.”
People started lining up as early as 10 a.m. One trio traveled four-and-a-half hours from Smithport, Pa., just to meet Chapman.
“It was well worth the wait,” said 10-year-old Cameron Sherwood, first in line to meet the reality show star.
Kristin Mason of Wellington smiled from ear to ear as she leaned in to hug the bounty hunter.
“I have been waiting my whole life to meet you,” she said.
Before the event, Wellington police officers were about halfway to their fundraising goal with $17,200. The school district put up $5,000 for the cause and the Wellington Firefighters Association provided $2,000.
The next fundraiser for the SRO program is Saturday. Downtown businesses, including Fort’s Tavern, Red Iron Bar and Grill, and Special Effects Custom printing will have huge sales, donation jars, and some will even donate portions of their profits to the cause.
Lt. Jeff Shelton said once they hit the $33,000 goal, the remainder of the money will stay in the fund and be saved to continue the program next year.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Courtesy of the Wellington police department
Lt. Jeff Shelton and reality star Leland Chapman give a tandem thumbs up in a fundraising event last week at Wellington Music.