How are the Students Chosen for the Disney Trip?

Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin says that the Cops Connecting With Kids organization gives the schools loose criteria to use when picking the kids. "We want kids who are good citizens, those who are kind to others, and who are turning in their assignments and trying to make good grades. We understand this is harder for some, so we don't put a certain GPA on it."

PHOTO: billy bolin | Canva
PHOTO: billy bolin | Canva

Read Chief Bolin's History of Cops Connecting with Kids Below.

Cedar Hall Community School
Glenwood Leadership Academy
Lincoln School
Lodge Community School
Princeton PCMS
Henderson, Kentucky
McGary Middle
Plaza Park International Prep Academy
Washington Middle

100+ Women Who Care
100+ Women Who Care

Are Tax Payers Funding the Cops Connecting with Kids Disney Trip?

Cops Connecting with Kids is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. So the answer to the question that was asked on the EvansvilleWatch Facebook page is no. Fundraisers throughout the year and generous donations from businesses and individuals fund the trip.

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How it Began:

Photo: Cops Connecting With Kids Disney Adventure Facebook Page
Photo: Cops Connecting With Kids Disney Adventure Facebook Page
“I need to talk with you after this.” I had no idea at the time, but those words would change my life. I was speaking to a group of school administrators and mentioned that I’ve read every book I could on Walt Disney and his leadership style. Tamara Shelton Skinner was in the audience and said those words above. After the talk, she explained that she had a grant and was taking a group of kids from Glenwood Leadership Academy to Walt Disney World. She said she needed some male chaperones and wanted me to go. When I got back to the office, I was telling Jason Cullum about the offer and I told him I was going to say no, because I knew I would be criticized for going to WDW. Jason told me that was stupid and reminded me that one of my primary goals was to build relationships between our department and our center city community. He further told me that I was always the one talking about the importance of youth programs and this would be an awesome way to connect. Two quick lessons here: 1) Never worry about unwarranted criticism. You will be criticized for everything, if you’re doing the right things for the right reasons, wear that criticism like a badge of honor. 2) Trust those people who advise you, regardless of position or rank.
After speaking with my wife, I agreed to go on the trip. When I told Principal Skinner I was in, she asked me if I could get three more male chaperones. I went back to Jason and asked him to put his money where his mouth was and he agreed to go. He then suggested Kyle Phernetton, as he had just been hired by the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office and Jason was mentoring him. So we went to the school to discuss the trip further and Drew Hudson was one of the teachers in the meeting. He suggested that one of our rookie officers would be perfect for the trip. I was hesitant because the officer was a rookie and was still in training. Once again, Jason urged me to consider it. That rookie was Officer Philip Smith and Drew’s suggestion not only proved brilliant for how well Phil was with the kids, but it was the beginning of a great friendship between Phil, Jason and I.
That trip was life changing. And I’m not talking about for the kids, which I do believe it was for them also, but for us adults. Tamara had told us that she had received a lot of criticism for using the grant money for this trip (the world is full of critics) and that it was a one time thing. I’ll never forget Jason coming over and sitting next to me on the bus ride home and saying, “What if we raised the money to do this?” I told Jason it would be a lot of work, but I would allow him to do it as part of his daily duties if he wanted to take it on. I further told him I would help, but he would have to do the lions share. I then stressed to him that it would be a LOT of work to pull off. He said he was doing it. And Cops Connecting With Kids Disney Adventure was born.
Jason formed a team over the years that has done an amazing job pulling all of this together. Philip Smith, Doug Daza, Jimmy Lefler, Shelly Phillips Cullum, Larry Bennett and countless other officers, deputies, teachers and citizens have came together to make this operation run.
We started with Glenwood and have since added Cedar Hall, McGary, Washington, Lodge, Plaza, Lincoln and Evans. 64 students from Evansville will be going on the trip tomorrow morning, along with 8 from Henderson and 8 more from Princeton. Jason Cullum asked the question, “What if we raised the money to do this?” Well Jason, looking back, I would have never dreamed that 11 years later, we would be able to say we were getting ready to take our 532nd Evansville kid to Walt Disney World, along with kids from Henderson and Princeton. If you can dream it, you can do it!


Cops Connecting with Kids | YR
Cops Connecting with Kids | YR

You might be wondering how taking students to Walt Disney World helps connect them with cops. Evansville Police Department's Chief, Phil Smith, shared his experience with the program.

How does the connection work? First you introduce yourselves and tell each other about yourselves. Then you realize how much you have in common. Then you talk more and learn about the differences you have. Despite having those differences each of you learn to see how the other thinks and why they think that way. Then you joke, then you laugh. Then you just want to see the other do well at everything they do. And that's how Cops Connect with Kids.


Mission Statement:

The mission of Cops Connecting with Kids Inc. is to build positive relationships between members of the law enforcement profession and the youth in their local communities, through open and honest channels of communication, mentorship, and connectivity.

Top 10 Disney-Inspired Baby Names

Below, discover the 10 most popular baby names inspired by beloved Disney characters.

Gallery Credit: Jacklyn Krol

10 Reasons Why This Kentucky Family Spends Every Vacation They Can at Disney World

When I tell people that we vacation at Disney World and have since my twin boys were 10 months old, the first question people usually ask me is, “Are you okay?” But the second question I get asked is, “What do you love so much about it?” Well, “I think so,” for the first question, and, “Everything,” for the second.

But saying I love everything about Disney World is kind of like me saying I love all my kids equally. It’s true, of course, but not a satisfying answer (Love you guys, equally)! It’s the WHY that matters. Why go to the most crowded theme park in the world when I could go almost anywhere else? Why not go to the beach or a cabin far away from society? Why do I want to go non-stop from sun up to sun down instead of sleeping in and resting on my vacation? Trust me, I get it, and yes, I've asked myself these questions. But the truth is, while it may seem wild to actively plan and prepare routine Disney World trips, it's a rush and I enjoy every minute of it, so let me give you ten reasons why this Kentucky family goes to Disney World for vacation.

Gallery Credit: Josh Corum