BERLIN — One young boy’s passion for law enforcement and the power of the Internet conspired this week to jumpstart what could be one of the best 100-day school projects ever.
Each year, kindergarten students around the area are required to come up with a project marking the 100th day of the school year. In some cases, a student might collect a seashell for each of the 100 days, or a colorful leaf, or glue a piece of candy to a calendar or something similar. However, Mason Hetherington, 5, a Berlin kindergartner, had a much more ambitious project in mind.
Hetherington has a passion for all things related to police work and law enforcement, the seeds of which may have been planted by his mother’s boyfriend, a Salisbury police officer. When informed about the project, Hetherington decided he was going to attempt to collect one police patch for each of the first 100 days of the school year.
“I told him that was a pretty tall order, but I would help him attempt it,” said Hetherington’s mother, Eliza Mason, a local teacher. “I wasn’t sure how to get it started or if it would come close to being successful, but he wanted to try it.”
Mason started by creating a Facebook page picturing Hetherington with a sign explaining what he was attempting with his 100-day project and reaching out to those who might be able to help. In the interest of safety, Mason opened a post office box urging willing donors to send their police patches.
On the first day Hetherington’s Facebook page went live, he had over 100 shares, and while she was somewhat surprised by the attention it received, Mason was still unsure what would come of it. The next day, she began to realize the magnitude of what was unfolding.
“The following day, I went to check the post office box and it was empty,” she said. “But the lady behind the counter said there was too much stuff to fit in the P.O. Box and invited me to come behind the counter to see the volume of letters and packages. He had received 40 in the first day from all over. There was a police patch from the Easton Police Department and even another patch from Northern Ireland.”
Mason’s boyfriend had jumpstarted Hetherington with his first patch from Salisbury and the batch from the post office box on the first day had topped out at over 40. However, the biggest surprise was yet to come.
Last Friday, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office called Mason and asked if it would be okay if Sheriff Reggie Mason came over to deliver some patches. Mason said he would be over on Saturday afternoon and asked if it would be okay if he brought a friend.
Around 3:30 p.m. last Saturday, just before the shift change for the night shift for the department, several Worcester County Sheriff’s Office vehicles pulled into the family’s driveway in Berlin with emergency lights flashing and sirens wailing. Young Mason knew somebody from the Sheriff’s Office was coming over, but he didn’t expect what happened next.
“He knew somebody was coming and he was antsy all day,” said Mason. “We had baked cookies for the officers and he paced around waiting for them to arrive. When he saw the entourage in the driveway, he was completely stunned. It was like his complete fantasy has come true. It was so precious.”
Sheriff Mason and his officers presented young Mason with police patches from the various units in the department. The officers also let Mason get into the vehicles and operate the various lights and sirens and explore the different law enforcement equipment. Mason responded by shaking each and every officers’ hands and presenting them with homemade cookies he and his mother had made earlier in the day.
“He was just so overwhelmed and I can’t say enough about the sheriff and his officers,” said Mason. “They were just so genuine. All he wants to be is a police officer and this just reinforced that.”
With the Sheriff’s Office donations, Hetherington’s patch total had reached 75 just a couple days into the effort and was expected to blow on by the 100 mark and well beyond. Mason said she had received several emails saying patches were on the way, including one from an FBI agent. By early this week, the Facebook page had reached 1,300 shares.
Mason said she would help her son organize the patches by those from Maryland, those from around the U.S. and those from out of the country. The plan is to get maps and place a pin in the area from whence each patch came. The idea is to make the effort a teaching tool with lessons about law enforcement, geography and even the use of the Internet.
“It really is pretty amazing,” she said. “When he said he wanted to do this, I thought he might get a couple dozen, but they are coming in from all over. It reinforces his desire, even at age 5, to pursue police work.”