STOW — A group of Stow 9-year-olds hosted a "Lemonade/Cookie for Good" stand to benefit the Stow Police Department K9 Unit in remembrance of retired K-9, Spectre, raising $1,200.
The fundraiser took place Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 2137 Bryn Mawr Drive in Stow.
All four girls, Madyson Compton, Sophia Drouhard, Cecelia Jones and Samantha McDaniel, are fourth-graders at Woodland Elementary School.
The children were inspired to hold the fundraiser after Spectre passed away. Spectrum (also known as Spectre) was acquired by the Stow Police Department in February of 2011 by then-Police Chief Louis Dirker. The expense of purchasing K-9 Spectrum and training expenses were all provided through a donation from Stow business, Spectrum Surgical.
After serving on the force for nearly five years, Spectre retired on Dec. 31, 2016 when his handler, K-9 Officer Erik Dirker, was promoted to sergeant. Spectre was 8 1/2 years old when he passed away suddenly on Aug. 6, 2019.
Police Sgt. Steve Miller said Spectre died from internal bleeding, apparently caused by a tumor on the heart.
Police Chief Jeff Film said, "It's just one of those things that happened all of a sudden."
"We are so proud of these young residents for planning and coordinating such a meaningful event in Spectre’s honor," said Mayor John Pribonic. "We are truly grateful for their generosity and thoughtfulness."
This is the fourth year that Sophia has operated a lemonade stand to raise money for a cause, with Samantha joining her for the second time and Cecelia and Madyson as first-timers. So far, the causes have have been related to either animals or children in some way.
"They're my best friends," said Sophia of her classmates.
Becky Drouhard, Sophia's mother, said that it started when the family moved from Akron to Stow and Sophia said she wanted a lemonade stand and when Becky asked what she would do with the money, "She said 'sick kids' and I said, 'parenting done right.’"
Proceeds from the first stand were used to purchase toys for Akron Children's Hospital, while the following year the stand benefited the Humane Society and the one after that, Ronald McDonald House.
"All of us are so proud of them. They just have hearts of gold," said Drouhard of all four girls.
Sophia said her mother works as a dispatcher for Joe's Auto on Commerce Drive, which provides vehicle impound services for the police department.
"She heard about the passing away of Spectre and we thought we could do it for that, do that for our charity lemonade stand this year."
Becky Drouhard said Joe's Auto donated the use of a water cooler and other things to the stand.
Sgt. Miller, handler of Kado, one of the department's three K-9s, as well as the K-9 program supervisor, said he knows the girls because he and Kado often visit Woodland.
"It's fantastic they were doing it," said Miller, adding the girls wore Stow Police K-9 shirts while operating the stand.
"It's just a neat thing that the kids all turned out in their police K-9 shirts," said Miller.
Mayor Pribonic spoke to the girls before they handed the money to Chief Film.
"We're very proud of you," he said. "That is really something very nice and we really, really, really do appreciate it, we really do."
Film told the Stow Sentry that what the girls did is "absolutely fantastic."
"This is yet another example of the community giving toward our K-9 program, supporting our K-9 program," he said. "In fact, we wouldn't have the three K-9s we currently have if it was not for the support of our community. We couldn't maintain the program without their support. We're very grateful and we'll be forever thankful for that."
Film said the K-9 fund does not come from tax dollars. The fund not only purchases new dogs when needed, typically more than $10,000 including training, but also equipment, particularly to outfit the K-9 cars, veterinarian expenses and other expenses, such as food.
Film said that besides donations, funding also comes through the sale of K-9 program T-shirts in the police department lobby, but even more so at the Pet Supplies Plus store in Stow.
"They give us the money back," said Film. "They don't take any cost for that."
The girls are already planning future endeavors, including being at the city's Dec. 5 Christmas tree lighting ceremony to raise money for some families in need in the school district, although what exactly they will do has not been decided.
"We really just started talking about it this morning," said Pribonic.
And Becky Drouhard said the girls plan on donating the proceeds from next year's stand to the Stow Fire Department.
"Whatever they need. We haven't really talked to them yet," she said.
Kado has been on the road for about a year and is one of three dogs the department has, one for each shift, which also include Diesel and Ruger. She was donated to the city by Von Der Haus Gill Police K-9 Academy, the western Ohio firm that supplies police K-9s and their training to the city. Film said Von Der Haus Gill donates a dog to a police department every year and last year Stow was chosen to receive one.