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Murrysville's Sloan Elementary School students honor first responders

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 7:41 p.m.
(c) 2013 Lillian DeDomenic
Murrysville Police Officer charles Tappe at lunch with Dawn Priest and Taylor Talarico at the Heros Lunch, s run by the Kid Kouncil and supported by the PTO at Sloan Elementary. All local 'heros' - police, firefighters and EMT's - were invited to lunch with the students, be served by a representive of the Kid Kouncil and just hang out during each lunch period. Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star
(c) 2013 Lillian DeDomenic
Officer 'Buzz' William Yakshe joins the students during lunch for the annual Heros Lunch. Run by the Kid Kouncil and supported by the PTO at Sloan Elementary, the lunch honors all local 'heros' - police, firefighters and EMT's. Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star
(c) 2013 Lillian DeDomenic
Grant Nitchman and Noah Rhea talk with 1st. Sgt. Mark Shawhan of Murrysville at the Heros Lunch, run by the Kid Kouncil and supported by the PTO at Sloan Elementary. All local 'heros' - police, firefighters and EMT's - are invited to lunch with the students, be served by a representive of the Kid Kouncil and just hang out during each lunch period. Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star

Morgan Carter learned a few things last week while sharing a hot turkey lunch with a local firefighter.

First off, firefighters are pretty cool. Secondly, she never wants to go to jail.

“He tells me it's pretty bad there,” said Morgan, a fourth-grader at Sloan Elementary, as she laughed with Murrysville fire Chief Al Dover. “This is really fun.”

Dover and more than a dozen other first responders joined the students at Sloan Elementary Feb. 21 for the annual Heroes Luncheon, which is sponsored by the school's Kid Kouncil. Students invited first responders from eight local emergency response agencies to share lunch and camaraderie.

“It lets us show the heroes how much we appreciate them,” said Emily Martin, a fifth-grader and member of the Kid Kouncil. “It lets us take care of them for once.”

Dover and Murrysville police Sgt. Charles Tappe ate their turkey lunches at a table packed with fourth-graders who were hanging on their every word. The men laughed and shared stories with their young friends, who were excited to ask their lunch partners questions.

The day is meaningful and fun for Dover.

“The food is better than I remember from when I was here,” Dover joked. “It means a lot to see the time the students and teachers put in to making us feel welcome here.”

Tappe has attended the luncheon for at least six years and still sees one of the young men he shared lunch with all of those year ago around town — the boy is a teenager now. The program helps cultivate strong relationships between police, fire and EMS workers and the youngest members of the community, he said.

“It's a great bonding time,” Tappe said. “We don't want them to look at us and assume they should be afraid. We're here to help them.”

Tappe said he is touched by the booklets the students put together each year. A hand-drawn booklet of “thank yous” was on display for each department, featuring drawings of local heroes and messages of appreciation. Similar banners hung across the lunchroom, expressing gratitude for the hard work local heroes put in every day.

“I think it's a good opportunity for kids to help out and meet their heroes like the firefighters,” said Kid Kouncil member and fifth-grader Noah Rhea while taking lunch orders for firefighters and police officers as they walked in. “I really like getting to meet them and say thank you.”

Principal Tina Burns said she is proud of the way her students have embraced the local heroes.

“It says they value the adults that help them or could possibly help them,” Burns said. “Society so often puts such a value on heroes these kids will never meet – sports stars, movie stars. But these folks are every day heroes who work so hard for the community.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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