“Let’s go, Bellevue” rang down 100th Avenue Northeast on Tuesday.
Children holding balloons and dressed in blue walked north up the road, then south through Bellevue Square Mall where they would eventually meet two other like-groups in the middle of Bellevue’s Downtown Park.
McDonald’s lunch was waiting for them.
The approximately 250 children, accompanied by Bellevue police officers and staff, were part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue’s fourth annual Kids Parade meant to “support the blue.”
“We are sincerely grateful to the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue for their continued support and appreciation of the Bellevue Police Department,” Bellevue police spokesman Seth Tyler said. “Community support and engagement is a critical component to the Bellevue Police Department’s success in keeping Bellevue one of the safest large cities in Washington.”
Kathy Haggart, the president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue, said the partnership with police is a “win-win” for everyone.
“We want our kids to grow up respecting the law enforcement around us and see them as friends and partners and, unfortunately, maybe that hasn’t happened so much,” Haggart said, adding that the club launched Badges for Baseball several years ago. “It was such a great way for our kids to see police as real people and not somebody that’s going to get them in trouble.”
Haggart said some children, particularly those who grow up in disadvantaged circumstances, maybe don’t have a very positive outlook on police. But through connections with the department, the Boys and Girls Club hopes to change that perspective.
The Bellevue Police Department has helped Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue design facilities so that they’re the safest they can be. They’ve also helped with evacuation plans in case of an emergency and Assistant Chief of Police Patrick Arpin sits on the club’s board.
Each week, Haggart said they host a teen feed at their Teen Center in Lake Hills and about once a month police help serve food.
“I want our older kids to think about the law enforcement as a potential career,” she said. “When they see these role models and mentors, I think it could really spur something in them and say, ‘Maybe I could do something like that.’”
Statistically, children who attend the Boys and Girls Club multiple times a week are less likely to smoke, do drugs or get pregnant, Haggart said of national statistics. She said the clubs have incredible outcomes because of this.
“We personally see it from our kids that come through and maybe do not have that support system at home,” she said. “And we see them get that support here and thrive and go on to great careers. We have success stories every day. I mean, it’s amazing.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue were established in 1952 and are the largest youth services provider on the Eastside, serving 11,000 young people annually from 13 clubs in the city.
For more information, visit www.bgcbellevue.org.