The 'I'll Be Your Friend' campaign starts with a young student in Georgia and continues to grow

SUBMITTED PHOTO - NDPD Chief Brian Casey poses with a Newberg High School student wearing one of the 'I'll Be Your Friend' t-shirts.

In collaboration with the Newberg School District, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department is launching an anti-bullying and police outreach initiative at local schools. A national campaign started with a child in Georgia whose anti-bullying efforts went viral online, and now local entities have adopted his campaign.

Six-year-old Blake Rajahn, from Georgia, went to school wearing a t-shirt that said "I Will Be Your Friend" in an effort to promote kindness and reduce bullying at his school. The national conversation about his effort caught the attention of Newberg city councilor Denise Bacon, who wanted to piggyback off the success young Rajahn had in his campaign.

"It was really Denise Bacon's idea to adopt this young man's campaign in our town," NDPD public information officer Brian Hagen said. "She approached the school district and police department about working on this and it just took off from there."

The local campaign was unveiled on Nov. 20 at Newberg High School, where police officers and school administrators served a pancake breakfast to students and handed out t-shirts with the campaign slogan.

More of the t-shirts – which totaled 500 throughout the district – were handed out at schools in Newberg and Dundee.

Officers will now carry around wristbands with "I'll Be Your Friend" on them to give out to local youths, an action Hagen said is part of a larger effort to bridge the gap between citizens and police.

Capt. Jeff Kosmicki, Hagen said, was the one who ordered the wristbands and distributed them to officers.

"We want our police officers to be approachable by young people," Hagen said. "This campaign helps with that and primarily serves as an anti-bullying initiative. People need to understand that there are people out there who are resources and who want to be their friend."

Hagen noted that wristbands will be available to local youths who approach NDPD officers and ask for them, as will the popular stickers that officers have traditionally handed out to kids.

There will potentially be more t-shirts distributed in the future, he added, but for now the wristbands will be the messenger of the movement throughout Newberg.

Hagen said he hopes the effort reduces bullying, fosters friendships and creates additional trust between children in the community and police officers charged with serving them.

"This young man sparked a movement and we want to keep it going here," Hagen said.

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