By: Jen Russon
When strong winds blew across J.P. Taravella’s track and field this weekend, it wasn’t due to the already windy weather. Due to the third annual Trojan Trot, a Broward Sheriff Office helicopter was preparing to land.
Organized by teacher Bryan Needle and 20 students from his criminal justice class, the event brought participants from across the community to raise money for Team South Florida, a nonprofit law enforcement charity.
Both students and adults paid to make a three-mile trek around the football field. However, before the helicopter appeared and laps could begin, Needle talked about the message behind his teaching.
“Students, hopefully, you have learned there is more to this class than learning the principles of law enforcement and public safety,” said Needle. “It’s about giving back to the community, serving in a selfless and altruistic way, being truthful, accountable, and compassionate.”
Rich Best, president of Team South Florida, thanked Taravella students and others who came out, explaining proceeds collected at the event help his organization serve families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.
“We try to prove through actions, not just words, that we mean it when we say, we will never forget.”
Best said when Mr. Needle’s class contacted him about donating the proceeds from their Trojan Trot to Team South Florida, he jumped at the chance, knowing it could make a difference in what the organization can provide the families of fallen police officers.
Best said Team South Florida does its best to attend every funeral, present memorial plaques, donate laptops, as well as send birthday cards, and organize holiday shopping sprees for the children of deceased heroes.
Coral Springs Police Chief Clyde Parry presented a recognition award to Officer Russell Henning, honored for administering CPR to an unconscious Coral Springs teenager last summer and saving the boy’s life. Parry reminded the crowd that police officers relish the opportunity to not only make a difference in your lives but often save one too.
It was a stirring tribute to law enforcement that came just before Broward Sheriff’s Office touched down in their six-seat helicopter, the crowd cheering while a volunteer DJ blasted LMAO’s song, “Sexy and I know it.”
Deputies Dave Lopez, Elier Vasquez, and Brian Miller exited the chopper and talked to students and their families about what the aviation unit does.
Lopez said he and his crew could see a lot of things officers on the ground can’t, especially at night. He added in addition to apprehending criminals, the unit also finds missing persons, lost children, or rescues people who might be drowning.
The deputies invited anyone interested to take a look inside the chopper while some 150 participants in the Trojan Trot took to the track.
These included parents and grandparents of students in Taravella’s Criminal Justice class, as well as Mr. Needles’ study hall students. For those in the Taravella police academy, attendance represented 60 percent of their grade; for others, it was a chance to earn three service hours.
One person running was a track student from Coral Glades High School, tenth grader Chase de Los Santos, who showed his support at Trojan Trot instead of Saturday practice.
Others included Marli Dearen, one of Needle’s third-year criminal justice students, jointly in charge of the event.