Rosalyn Baldwin was heartbroken when she heard about five police officers being killed in Dallas in July 2016. A few days later, three other officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, closer to where she lived.
She wanted to help, but what could a 7-year-old offer?
Rosalyn, now 8 years old, has visited 29 states in the last two years offering hugs to scores of police officers. This week was Milwaukee’s turn. Four University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Police Department officers and Chief Joseph LeMire joined Milwaukee Police Department officers Wednesday when Rosalyn visited to share a few of her enthusiastic, little-girl hugs.
“I needed a hug today,” UWM Officer Nadina Campos said with a smile.
“It’s nice, it’s really nice,” added Sgt. Bryan LaChapelle. “Sometimes it’s important to get a good hug.”
When Rosalyn’s project first started, her mom thought her daughter would be satisfied with giving hugs at the local police station at St. Tammany Parish near their home. But Rosalyn wanted to continue bringing her hugs to police officers everywhere.
So, since early 2017, she’s been on the road with her mother, Angie, during summer and school vacations spreading a message of love, appreciation and hugs. Her father, Eric, is a pastor, and she has one younger brother.
Angie Baldwin contacted LeMire after she met a retired Milwaukee police officer in Denver who suggested police officers in Milwaukee could use a few of Rosalyn’s hugs. LeMire coordinated with the Milwaukee Police Department to organize an informal gathering outside the Milwaukee Police Department Administration Building.
There were lots of smiles, cellphone videos, media and, of course, hugs as the little girl visited with all the police officers gathered on a sunny plaza.
“She said she felt it was her calling,” LeMire said of his meeting with Rosalyn and her mother.
“We always appreciate hugs,” he added, “but this week is especially timely.” May 13-19 is National Police Week, honoring current officers and remembering those who have fallen.
Angie Baldwin, who travels with her daughter, said they have tried to keep the hug campaign very simple and nonpolitical.
“She just wanted to show her love, appreciation and support for the officers,” she said.
One of the mottos on Rosalyn’s website sums it up: “Hug a cop today; they may save your life tomorrow.”
UWM officers Campos and LaChapelle were joined by Sgt. Heather Maus and Officer Noel Ybarra. They all promised to bring some of Rosalyn’s hugs back to campus.
Rosalyn’s website sums up her mission with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”