On Oct. 14, Adele Schroeder had a very specific wish for her sixth birthday: to celebrate it at the headquarters of the Oak Park Police Department.
“She didn’t give me any notice. The morning of, she said, ‘My birthday is police-themed,'” Adele’s mother, Nancy Schroeder, said. Schroeder reminded her daughter that they had decided to have a small family birthday celebration in lieu of a big party with school friends.
“Adele said, ‘I know, but we’re going to go down to the station and have my cake there,” Schroeder recounted. Adele is reportedly a huge fan of the police; every time she sees an officer, she screams with excitement and stops to talk to them.
She quickly called Sergeant Samantha Deuchler, whom Adele had previously met on a tour of the station, to see if it was OK for her and her husband to bring Adele and their two sons over there for cake.
Deuchler got the OK from Chief LaDon Reynolds and quickly started preparing. “I ran over to CVS, got a card, had everybody in the station sign it,” she said.
Reynolds said the station routinely gives tours to children, but a birthday party was a first for him. “In my 25 years here, that was the first time I know of that a kid wanted to cut the cake in the police department, which I thought was fantastic,” he said.
Reynolds let the Schroeders use his conference room. The officers gathered and sang “Happy Birthday,” then ate cake with Adele, who made many new friends.
“She was telling us that I was her number-one friend here, and then she met Detective [Schonella] Stewart who was her number-two friend, and then she said the chief was her number-three friend,” Deuchler said.
The Schroeders even got a special tour of the interrogation rooms and Adele received a few birthday gifts from the officers.
“We put together a quick little swag bag of stickers, tattoos and pencils,” Deuchler said. Reynolds gave Adele a toy police car and got a hug from Adele in return.
“It took me by surprise, but it was fantastic because I knew it was genuine,” Reynolds said. “She is very clear about what she likes and her love for the police department.” Reynolds called Adele a “super-cool kid.”
Adele’s little brother Ian, who is 4, also took a shine to the chief. “He and I embraced and we connected,” said Reynolds. “He’s my buddy.”
Reynolds carried Ian through the station and didn’t want Reynolds to put him down. “He gave me big hugs and I gave him big hugs; he’s just a sweet boy,” the chief said.
Adele happiness in spending time with the officers showed Reynolds that the police department is fulfilling its duty to the community.
“It lets me know that the officers out there patrolling and interacting with families are doing their job and letting the citizens know that we are there to serve and engage and be part of the community,” he said. “The fact that she felt so comfortable with us, and in the police station, lets me know that we’re doing the same things outside that we preach inside.”
Adele’s mother said the family was thrilled with their experience. “I expected them to be nice, but they really went above and beyond,” Schroeder said. She thinks Adele will remember this birthday far more than a regular birthday party.
“What I like the most about this Oak Park Police Department is the diversity,” said Schroeder. “Three or four of the people in the conference room were women; we saw different races. There’s just a lot of representation in our police force. To see these strong role models for Adele, that’s what struck me the most.”
It was a great experience for the Schroeder family and police department alike. Deuchler said it was a lot of fun having them in the station. Adele wants to make it a yearly tradition and even asked the chief to give the officers time off to come to her birthday party next year, which Reynolds is happy to make happen.
“As soon as we know when the party is, there will definitely be a police presence. If I’m at work and can attend, I’ll be there as well,” the chief said. “If she wants the police at her birthday party, then we’ll be there.”