EAST TAWAS – A campaign led by the Tawas Police Officers’ Association (TPOA), in recognition of April as Autism Awareness month, recently culminated in an exciting donation drop-off event at Acorn Health in East Tawas.
As a way to give back to their community, members of the Tawas City Police Department (TCPD) created the TPOA in March, and kicked off their inaugural fundraiser less than two weeks later.
From donations received during this effort, they were able to gift the children at Acorn Health with a large supply of brand new toys and games, which the officers delivered in person on Aug. 24.
Arriving with three packed patrol vehicles were Chief Matthew Klosowski-Lorenz and Officers Jeremy Daniszewski, Jacob Linkhart and Allan MacGregor, who were joined at the building by some of the children served by Acorn Health, their family members and staff at the facility.
Once TCPD/TPOA members were done unloading the numerous boxes, they proceeded to help assemble the toys and to cheer on the youngsters as they tried out the new items, while also taking the time to simply hang out and chat with the children.
The gifts included board games, a slide, a kid’s golf set, a deluxe workshop for the handymen and women of the group, model making/craft kits, a crawl through play tunnel and even a small-scale roller coaster.
The items will certainly serve as a source of fun and entertainment – as was already witnessed through the children as soon as the TPOA began hauling boxes in. But the toys will also be doubling as a learning opportunity for those who utilize the facility.
This was explained by Dallas Martin, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst who is the lead BCBA at Acorn Health’s East Tawas building.
She shared that when possible, they always strive to capture natural opportunities for learning when working with the children. “We try to incorporate as much learning while playing that often the kids do not realize we are teaching.”
Martin says that items such as the roller coaster and easel delivered by the TPOA are among those with which the children are highly motived to engage, and it presents a lot of chances for staff to throw some educative elements into the mix. “For example, taking turns, following simple instructions/safety instructions, answering questions, and so much more.”
She notes that the East Tawas center currently provides services to 32 children, between the Tawas area and Alpena. “We provide center and home-based services to all age ranges of children starting as young as 18 months.”
Previously known as Autism Centers of Michigan – before joining the family of Acorn Health companies – Martin says that the center provides Applied Behavior Analytic (ABA) services to children with autism spectrum disorder. “We look at children’s behaviors and the environment to increase desirable behaviors that allow them to communicate, learn, and lead to a quality of life.”
As noted in their vision statement, Acorn Health – which operates locations in Michigan and six other states – is driving autism therapy forward with their careful combination of ABA best practices and their pioneering next practices.
The East Tawas branch, which opened its doors in August 2019, is located at 111 Newman St. and fronts US-23. For more information, Martin recommends visiting https://acornhealth.com/about-us/ or calling 877-725-0520.
As for the recent donation, “We are still so in awe of this community and the Tawas City Police Department. Our hearts are so incredibly full,” Martin expressed.
She added that not only did the TPOA bring the items, but they spent time with the children and families. “The police officers pulled the new toys out of the boxes and worked with our kids putting the items together. That was honestly the best part of this experience – creating those relationships with our families, kiddos, police department, and autism center.”
For their part, as if the smiles and excitement weren’t enough, the kids also presented the officers with several pieces of handmade artwork to thank them for the gifts. This included law enforcement-themed drawings and paintings, as well as paper doll cutouts of police officers – and even replicas of the TPOA’s Autism Awareness patches. Some of the creations, along with a sign reading, “Tawas Police Are Our Heroes,” were also posted on the front of the building to greet the TCPD before they walked in.
As previously noted, the TPOA sold special edition TCPD patches during their April Autism Awareness fundraiser, in order to benefit the local center. The patches featured the department logo against a background of colorful puzzle pieces, which are often associated with Autism Awareness.
Along with each of the officers also purchasing two of the custom patches to wear on their uniforms, puzzle piece decals and the phrase “Support Autism Awareness” adorned the TCPD patrol vehicles, as well, during the month of April.
The patches were sold for $10 each. Of this, $7 directly aided the Acorn Health autism center, while the remainder will be saved specifically for future fundraising campaigns with the TPOA, for which all contributions stay local.
Klosowski-Lorenz – who also personally gave $300 to purchase the initial order of patches – shared that 190 patches were sold during the TPOA’s inaugural fundraiser.
He said that all of the toys and other items which were donated to Acorn Health derived from the sales of the patches. The items were picked out by staff at the center, along with involvement from the children who helped create the wish list.
The donation totaled about $1,550 and the amount of money collected during the fundraiser came to $1,330. So, the TPOA picked up the excess cost.
The association didn’t hesitate to pitch in even further and, when it came time to make their delivery, they had just as much fun looking on as the children did when diving into their new toys.
The TPOA has plenty of other community-centered goals in mind for the future, too, and they are also working on obtaining 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit entity through the state of Michigan.
As for their next endeavor, Klosowski-Lorenz said that the TPOA is preparing to announce their fall fundraiser, which will benefit the Seton Cancer Institute at Ascension St. Joseph Hospital in Tawas City.
“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we have ordered Special Edition Tawas Police patches for this benefit,” he stated. “Like the Autism Awareness fundraiser, $7 from each patch will benefit our local cancer center to provide local assistance to patients and families struggling with cancer.”
Additional details on the fundraiser will be shared in a future edition of this publication.
Klosowski-Lorenz also advised that the TPOA plans to conduct their Autism Awareness event again, in April 2022, to continue to benefit Acorn Health.
Anybody wishing to contribute to the TPOA fundraisers may do so by sending donations to: TPOA, 1175 W. Lake Street, Tawas City, MI 48763.
“Please include a note or memo as to what your donation is for,” the chief adds. “All of our funds are used locally to benefit our community.”
Further details on the TCPD and the TPOA can be found on their Facebook pages, at https://www.facebook.com/tawaspoliceofficersassociation/ and https://www.facebook.com/TawasCityPD/, respectively. The TCPD station can also be reached by phone, at 362-8680.
As reported, it was in March when the TCPD prepared a letter requesting the Tawas City Council’s approval to establish the TPOA, which is a separate entity from the city. Officials voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.
“Our community means a lot to us and we hope you will consider our fundraising efforts,” the message reads in part. “This request is hopefully the start of being able to directly engage in our community by recognizing their needs and what we can do to help.”
Linkhart was also on hand for the council meeting during which this was discussed. He described that the association will be a tool that the TCPD officers can utilize to help with some more community friendly efforts, future fundraising events and all around general ways for them to better connect with those in the area.
And if their visit to Acorn Health is any indication, they are clearly realizing this goal.
Klosowski-Lorenz said that such events as the donation drop-off allow donors to visually realize the impact of their contributions and the fundraiser.
“We hope that the more the community can see that we are here to help, the more we all get to work together to make this a better place to live and work,” he stated.