WYANDOTTE -- He can't go anywhere without hearing “Officer Ken!”
There are no sweeter words for Wyandotte Nation Police Officer Ken Brodrick, who has served as a D.A.R.E., officer to hear from the hundreds and hundreds of students he has taught and come to know through the years.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education is an international substance abuse prevention education program Brodrick has taught for 20 years locally, first in Miami since 1994, and now in Wyandotte.
Brodrick's passion for D.A.R.E is such as huge part of who he is and what he believes that he tears up at times with emotion talking about the students he teaches.
“I thoroughly believe in it,” Brodrick said.
Due to budget cuts in funding from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Department of Public Safety, the Oklahoma D.A.R.E Officer's Association was left without funds for training.
“They've carried the baton for over 20 years,” Brodrick said. “They've supported D.A.R.E. and over the years with budget crunches they have trimmed funding, and to stay this long was an amazing feat.”
Without the funding, the yearly week-long officer training for D.A.R.E. was gone as well as the position of coordinator previously held by an OHP Trooper.
“Since the budget crunch they've had to totally pull out,” he said.
Brodrick was elected ODOA's state coordinator last week at the ODOA Conference an honor he's proud of to be sure of, but his beloved program staffed by volunteers was left without means to train officers throughout Oklahoma.
An impassioned Facebook post made by Brodrick's wife Lisa this week seeking help from anyone interested in helping to save the program was quickly answered.
“We generally do a training in January but we decided if we can get the funds we decided to wait until the summer of 2016,” Brodrick said. “We had no idea how quickly help would come. I give Lisa the credit because she's at conference and has supported all I've done. Before we even left the hotel room she's on social media.”
A woman who has come to be known as a hero herself for her generous donations to causes around Ottawa County, Geri Williams, of Miami, immediately stepped forward with a check for $25,000.
“Her and I have gotten to know each other over the years through insurance actually,” Lisa Brodrick said. “She contacted me and just said let's talk about this. I called her and she said, 'What do you need, what can I do?' She emphasized that D.A.R.E. was so important to her children and she still has the certificates they signed making a promise to their D.A.R.E. officer that they would never do drugs. She said, 'We've got to do this. Come over I'll have you a check ready.'”
Williams is humble in her giving and made this statement on her Facebook page, it says in part: “Our government can't stop drugs, our medical society is worn out dealing with the result of what drug abuse can do to people, in my opinion we can save our children, whom are our future, maybe if we all work together we can make a difference! I believe in the D.A.R.E. program it educated my children and they are both in their mid 30s! They both know that growing up to be adults they had lots of choices to make and I am a very proud Mom to know they both never turned to drugs! It was once said and published that it takes a village to rear a child today, well I feel that it takes good parenting and good education to rear a child in today's society! If we do nothing to educate and motivate our children into learning, we will reap what we sow!! It takes a village to help provide the means to continue programs that have proven to make a difference to our children to think when they are confronted with drug abuse! I ask everyone to please help save this proven program for our children...”
Williams' check will be used to cover expenses for the entire training including accommodations, travel, food and training materials.
“She covered the whole state of Oklahoma for training next year,” Brodrick said. “There'll be a special crown for her when she gets to heaven.”
With a year's reprieve for Oklahoma D.A.R.E, Brodrick can breath easier but worries about the future.
“We've got the first year, that's our first step,” he said. “One of the great things about D.A.R.E. is we've never charged a student for workbooks or t-shirts, the community and the Wyandotte Tribe has always supported the program."
Brodrick's reached generations of students with D.A.R.E's message. His sense of humor and compassion for these children and teens is evident when he speaks of them.
“I can tell you story after story of young kids that come up and give me a hug and share a story of what was going on at home,” Brodrick said, his voice breaking with emotion, “I had one special needs girl, it was like my first or second year in D.A.R.E., she would always come running. One day she came up to me and told me she was being molested by her father. I melted. It's those stories of survival and the connection.
"I used to do the Christmas parade in Miami and driving down Main Street I had to drive with my legs waving so much. What other job can you have to get that kind of reward. There's none. I've done that kicking in the doors and arresting the bad guys and stuff and there's an adrenaline rush , I worked the streets for 11 and a half years before I got into D.A.R.E., but there's no rush greater than seeing a smile on a kid's face, knowing that you've reached some to support them.”
The Brodrick family are all involved with D.A.R.E, including their children Lexi and Braxton. Lisa's labor was induced early with their son so Brodrick could attend a D.A.R.E conference in Hawaii.
“I don't know who he would be if it wasn't for D.A.R.E.,” Lisa Brodrick said crying. “I've never felt like it took away from our family. It's made our family better, it's made our family stronger. I want D.A.R.E. for my children's children. To see the difference he makes in these kids lives ... we laugh because it takes me two hours to get through Walmart and with him with me it takes three with all the kids saying hello. ”
Brodrick said it's a wasted trip to the store if he doesn't hear, “Hey, Officer Ken!”
The program has been modified throughout the years and includes much of the curriculum on dealing with bullying as well as drug prevention. Brodrick tries to make the lessons fun with "gross" jokes and funny stories to help the kids remember the concepts to enable them to make good choices when it comes to drug and alcohol use and to deal with bullying.
“D.A.R.E. has tried to stay up with the changing trends and updated the program,” Brodrick said. “We had to train police officers how to go into a grade school and reach the kids. Many of these kids have never heard these kinds of messages that help them with better decision making.”
Support such as Williams' helps “Officer Ken” Brodrick in turn support the children he encounters through D.A.R.E.
“It's not going to save the world but if you change one or two it's all worth it,” Brodrick said. “Geri's my hero! The crazy thing is at a training we train up to 36 police officers, every D.A.R.E. officer that goes out of there goes with a little of every one of those on the staff, so every child that they reach a little bit of us reaches that child. Well now Geri's become a part of that team. She's helping reach those kids because of her generosity. She answered the call. Oklahoma D.A.R.E. will not go down the tubes, not on my watch as long as I have breath in me and I am part of this training!”
Anyone interested in D.A.R.E. or who wishes to donate to support the program can make contact with Ken Brodrick at his Office: 918-678-6368 or by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org