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CHICAGO (CBS) — Grade school students in the northwest suburbs are learning some important lessons about the bravery and sacrifices of first responders. The children will pay tribute to police officers and firefighters at a special parade Thursday morning.
At St. Zachary Catholic School in Des Plaines, third graders are busy combining art with gratitude.
“Thanking all the officer and firefighters for all they do,” Gehrig Storniolo said.
The kids’ thank you messages will be on display Thursday morning at St. Zachary’s First Responders Parade. Police officers and firefighters will take part, starting out at nearby Friendship Park, and ending up at the school.
“We are surrounded by a lot of families that have first responders in our school. So it’s important that we honor those people that go above and beyond to save the rest of us,” St. Zachary principal Darlene Potenza said.
As Derek Doherty draws, he thinks of his dad and uncles who are police officers.
“It says thank you; and it has an ambulance, a fire truck, and police car at the bottom,” he said.
Alex Nguyen has warm memories (photos) of last year’s parade, and what she and her schoolmates saw on the faces of the officers and firefighters.
“They were happy about us. They were also thankful that we are honoring them,” she said.
This year, organizers are hoping Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski will be there. He was shot nine times in line of duty last year.
All are welcome to attend the parade to pay tribute to Kotlewski and all the first responders.
“I just want people to see that there are so many good people around us, that we need to start focusing on the positive things in our lives,” Potenza said.
A lesson, too, for the youngest among us.
“This is important, because we like to teach the kids that we look for the helpers in society,” Potenza said.
The First Responders Parade begins at 10 a.m. Thursday at Friendship Park in Des Plaines.
Potenza said, every school day, she’ll ask her students to think of three things they’re grateful for. Psychologists say expressing gratitude daily can improve our mental health.