Law Appreciation Day events, fund raisers set
Sunday will mark Southwest Florida’s inaugural Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
“The most simple thing to do is come together and support law enforcement officers,” said organizer Vincent Stephen of Cape Coral. “Just keep it simple. It’s the community coming together to say thank you.”
Stephen thinks 1,000 to 1,5000 people will attend the noon to 3 p.m. event at Centennial Park.
“I think we are fortunate in Southwest Florida to not have the same issues they’re having elsewhere, but it’s always nice to be thanked,” he said.
Law enforcement certainly appreciates the gesture.
“Every officer has been very thankful at the minimum,” Stephen said.
A group of people also wanted to show their support.
The Back the Blue Boat parade will gather at Jaycee Park around 11:15 a.m. and head over to Centennial Park around noon.
They’ll blow their horns and show their support for law enforcement.
There won’t be food at the Centennial Park event, but there will be Kona ice and water. Stephen also is encouraging guests to stay downtown and check out and support local restaurants after the event.
Stephen is most looking forward to seeing the “community unity for our beloved law enforcement.”
“And so law enforcement can see they have a community that supports them,” he said.
Stephen, who is a retired Army officer, doesn’t think they get enough of that.
The event is hosted and organized by the Proud Patriots of Southwest Florida.
“Everyone is a little frustrated with what’s happening in the country,” Stephen said. “We’re all asking ourselves what we can do and saying ‘I wish there was something I could do.’ What I can do is try to do something positive and bring the community together for a positive subject.
“So, if we’re successful at bringing people together for a common love of law enforcement, that’s a good thing. It helps them and they know folks appreciate them and are behind them.”
Local candidates running for public office will also be there on Sunday.
“Given the current climate we’re in as a nation, I think it’s important for people to get to know their politicians and those seeking to represent them,” Stephen said.
Rosemary Zore and Mike Randell with Fallen Officers and the Robert L. Zore Foundation will talk about the foundation, which is also hosting the event along with the S.W. Florida Heroes Foundation, Inc.
Michael Thompson from the heroes foundation will also talk about the group.
Fort Myers Mayor, Randy Henderson, will welcome attendees to the event, along with a representative from the Fort Myers Police Department and Lee County Sheriff Office captain, Pete Hedrick.
“It’s necessary for us to appreciate Southwest Florida officers,” Stephen said. “Not that we didn’t already.”
On July 26, a fundraiser is planned to support them even more.
Paint the Town Blue and Green aims to raise $50,000 for law enforcement and $50,000 for veterans.
The noon to 4 p.m. event will be in 22 cities at predetermined locations all over Southwest Florida.
Stephen used Cape Coral as an example.
“From Cape Coral Parkway to Pine Island Road, imagine 250 people or more standing on both sides of the sidewalk with flags, signs and people being just very festive,” he said.
There will be people at red lights on each side of the road with two different colored buckets for donations for either law enforcement or veterans. At the end, the money will be divided up equally.
“Ninety-two thousand cars travel on Del Prado Boulevard every day,” Stephen said. “I think the Cape could easily do $100,000.”
Stephen wants to do Law Enforcement Appreciation Day next year, too.
He chose Centennial Park for its central location.
“I hope it brings folks from as far as Sarasota County and Collier and Hendry Counties,” Stephen said. “So I wanted somewhere in the middle. And it has a big, open space.”
The event’s No. 1 goal is to boost morale.
“In these times, they’re just being demoralized all over the place. Again not just speaking about Southwest Florida,” he said. “We’re pretty good to law enforcement.
“We could be an example to the nation.”
At the end, attendees will walk from Centennial Park to the Fort Myers Police Department at 2210 Widman Way, a roadway named for a fallen officer from Cape Coral.
They’ll surround the building and scream “thank you” as loud as they can.
“The Fort Myers Police Department building is just nearby,” Stephen said. “But we’d scream ‘thank you’ to all law enforcement officers if we could!”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/groups/PatriotsForSWFL/ and www.facebook.com/events/3625696394113178/.