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Sophia salutes Morgantown police officers

Five-year-old Sophia Richards loves to support police officers and other first responders.  Since the summer of 2020, she has visited various police and fire departments throughout her home state of Illinois to show her appreciation for everything they do.

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Sophia and her parents, Veronicah and Terry Richards, decided to incorporate a “Sophia Tour” into their trip, making several stops at police departments along their route.

On Monday, Sophia and her parents decided to bring the tour to Morgantown to show some appreciation to officers at the Morgantown Police Department — bringing two dozen cupcakes along with them.

Sophia has her own metal thank-you tags that she gives to the officers she meets with a message from her that reads, “Thank you for all you do and thank you for keeping us safe.”

On this trip, she was also handing out what she calls her “business cards,” which have a little message for the officers.

On the front of the card it says “Be strong and courageous for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.” The back of the cards have some special instructions for the officers: “Be sure to return safe to your family — it’s a Sophia order. Thank you for keeping us safe.”

“Sophia has always loved police officers,” her mother Veronicah said.  “Every time I would drive by and she would see a police car she would say ‘Mommy, mommy look!  Police! They are out there to keep me safe.’”

Veronicah said their visits started when they decided to bring some donuts and coffee to the state troopers near their Illinois home. 

“We sat and talked to them and encouraged them and let them know how much they are appreciated no matter what they hear out there, and it started there,” Veronicah said.

Since that first visit, Sophia has visited over two dozen police departments, fire departments and other agencies — usually bearing cupcakes and lots of well-wishes.  She even takes time to visit injured officers in the hospital.

“Just little things to be able to encourage our officers because they most definitely deserve more than that,” Veronicah said.  “They don’t work for credit, but they don’t get enough credit for what they do.  We read mostly all the bad about the 1%, but the majority of people don’t talk about the 99% good.”

The experience is just as rewarding for Sophia.  “Every time she takes those cupcakes she just gets so excited to be able to go in and see the officers and we just love it.”

Veronicah said that many times the departments don’t even know they are coming for a visit, but they are always welcomed with open arms.

“Everybody is so excited.  Everybody is so happy,” she said.  “When you are doing your job it’s always nice to hear someone tell you ‘Thank you for all you do. You’re doing a really great job.’  But our officers hardly ever get that.  They just get criticized for everything that someone else did. 

“Every profession has good and bad,” she said.  “The majority of things are good in life, but society is telling us to look at all the bad, so we are choosing to see the good and teaching our daughter to see the good and appreciate law enforcement and appreciate people who are out there risking their lives for someone or someone who will literally jump in fire to protect her — that’s what we want her to be able to know.  And she values them, loves them, appreciates them.”

When the Richards family found out they would need to travel to Washington, D.C., they knew it would be the perfect opportunity to greet some officers along the way.

“We decided we are gonna go, we are gonna go with cupcakes, with tags, with thank-you notes and we are gonna go and spread love to our police officers who most definitely deserve it,” Veronicah said.

On their 13-hour drive through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., they wanted to be sure to stop at at least one department in each state and decided to choose departments that were on their route so they didn’t get too far off course — Morgantown became one of those stops.

Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell said the visit they got from Sophia was really special.

“The visit from Sophia brightened the day for all of the officers at MPD.  We were honored that she chose us to visit,” Powell said. “She is a remarkable young lady and is destined to have a positive impact wherever she goes and whatever she does.”

Veronicah said they would love to be able to see every department in the country, but realizes that might be a lofty goal.

The next big adventure for Sophia will be a trip to Kenya in East Africa for the family’s nonprofit called Imani — Sophia’s middle name — which means “faith” in Swahili.  Once there, they will work to build a shelter to help abused women and orphaned children, Veronicah said.

You can follow Sophia’s visits with law enforcement on her Facebook page “Sophia Salutes First Responders” where she posts pictures from all of her visits with officers.

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