Get Fit With Fanwood’s Finest 2019
Submitted by Tom Kranz
Fanwood/Scotch Plains middle schoolers spent the last week of August at the “Get Fit With Fanwood’s Finest” Program.
The whistle sounds and forty t-shirted young people sprint across the blacktop at the Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains as six instructors urge them on. But these aren’t police recruits. They are middle school students who signed up for a one week program of fitness and fun created by the Fanwood Police Department. Get Fit With Fanwood’s Finest was the idea of Chief Richard Trigo and his administrative assistant Dianne Howarth, with the help of a $2,000 grant from the First Responders Children’s Foundation and donations from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We wanted to get the kids out of the house,” said Chief Trigo. “So, we said let’s do something where we workout with the kids. I approached some of our officers assigned to the Union County Emergency Response Team about what daily workouts they go through with their training. I said I’d like to incorporate that into something for the kids. And the officers just took off with it.”
The two hour gathering is not the rigorous, boot-camp-like routine that actually occurs at the police academy, but an informal and relaxed set of basic exercises mixed with field games, tug-of-war and relay races.
“We can make workouts enjoyable,” said Officer Elliott Bernard, one of the instructors. “It doesn’t have to be just push-ups, sit-ups and running for hours at a time.”
The five-morning program is free, thanks to the grant. In addition to being an end-of-summer activity, it allows police officers to reach out to children in a non-official capacity, an investment in future relationships.
“We’re not in uniform, we’re not in that patrol car,” said Sgt. Marc Gottlick. “We’re out here. We’re running relay races with them, giving high-five and fist-bumps. They’re getting to know us a little more individually.”
“All the officers in Fanwood are approachable,” added the chief’s assistant Dianne Howarth. “Now the kids see it. So, if they ever have a problem, they’re not going to be afraid to come to the police department or reach out to one of the police officers.”
In the last event of the day, a tug-of-war pitting the six officers against a group of kids, the kids won.
“You see what you accomplished when you work together?” Chief Trigo told the students afterwards. “Great job, everyone!”
Photos by Tom Kranz