Any time she has a chance to help someone, 11-year-old Ashlyn Simpson is ready.
“I’m in,” the Scott Elementary School fifth-grader said. “I love to help people. It makes me happy.”
She and 29 other students in a group called ALPHAS, an acronym for Attitude, Leadership, Purpose, Happiness, Acceptance and Success, were happier than clams Monday. With big smiles on their faces and hugs for all, students handed an oversized check for $3,325 to representatives from Colorado Springs Police Protection Association’s Fallen Officers’ Relief Fund.
Students from the Colorado Springs District 11 school held fundraisers all semester to collect money for wounded Colorado Springs Police Officer Cem Duzel. He was shot in the head Aug. 2, while responding to a call of shots fired east of the Olympic Training Center.
The alleged gunman, Karrar Noaman Al Khammasi, 32, who reportedly became belligerent with an Uber driver and was refused a ride, pleaded not guilty to several charges, including attempted murder of a police officer. A judge ordered mental health evaluations, postponing the trial, which was to have started last week.
Duzel remains in Craig Hospital in Englewood, said Sherryl Dillon, executive director of the local police protection association.
“He’s working really hard and making good progress,” she said. “He still has a long road of recovery. He’s doing as well as can be expected.”
Monday’s contribution from the students brings total community donations to nearly $80,000, Dillon said, with every penny benefiting Duzel and his family.
Donations help pay for rehab devices, home modifications or other items needed in his medical care, Dillon said.
Scott Elementary’s largest fundraiser toward the project was a “Back the Blue” night in April. Put on by students for students, the event featured police dogs, SWAT team members, face painting, outdoor games and other activities.
Ashlyn worked in the art room, painting rocks with inspirational messages that she handed out to people, including law enforcement in attendance.
“It was fun,” she said.
Police have less contact with elementary students than they do with older kids, so the event was a meaningful opportunity, said Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Pam Farmer.
“For us, it’s keeping him (Cem Duzel) in the forefront of remembering him,” she said.
Colorado Springs Police Lt. Patrick David said it’s been “phenomenal seeing the support of the group of kids to come up with this idea and say ‘we want to do something’ and raise over $3,000.”
The effort goes to show when youth are dedicated and put their minds together, “great things come out of it,” he said.
Donations from Chili’s Grill & Bar and other local businesses, as well as families and friends, helped increase the amount.
The project gave students a chance to “talk about different characteristics of tolerance,” said social worker Robyn Colbert. It also allowed them to give back to the community.
“It’s nice to see these kids feel proud,” she said.
Building confidence and leadership skills also were part of the learning, said assistant principal Valerie Gallegos.
Eleven-year-old Justin Singer said he made friends while working for a good cause.
“He (Duzel) helped our school and almost the whole world, and we appreciate it, and we will never forget him” he said.
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