By: Terry Harris, Staff Writer
1:04 p.m. | August 3, 2017
STONY CREEK – “And a little child shall lead them” is the phrase that comes to mind upon hearing the story of 13-year-old Emily Finchum of Stony Creek and her #Positive Patrol. To date, the Sussex Middle School eighth grader has delivered over 35,000 Thank You cards to Virginia police officers, dispatchers, firefighters and those serving in the military. And it’s all due to her determination to turn a negative experience into something positive. Her story began when she was in the third grade.
To date, the Sussex Middle School eighth grader has delivered over 35,000 Thank You cards to Virginia police officers, dispatchers, firefighters and those serving in the military. And it’s all due to her determination to turn a negative experience into something positive. Her story began when she was in the third grade.
“I was bullied a lot in school,” Emily said. “I got hit, and I finally got a letter from someone that said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ I was really scared to go to school. But my Mom wouldn’t let me turn negative and my resource officer helped me get though it. That made me want to do something to turn all that negative into positive.”
So Emily started making Everybody Cards and handing out an anti bullying pledge to get other kids to do the pledge with her. That was in third and fourth grades. Last summer she wanted to volunteer to do something else, but she wasn’t old enough. So she began making Thank You cards for police officers, dispatchers, firefighters and military in a program she calls #Positive Patrol.
“We call ahead to find out how many are there in the departments, then she prints them out, cuts them, and delivers or mails them,” said her Mom, Tara Finchum. “She sent thank you notes to each officer of the VA state police – all 2000 of them.”
To date, Emily has been to 97 towns and cities, mostly in Virginia, with her encouraging notes. And they are making a difference, perhaps in ways she never dreamed, according to Sussex County Sheriff Ernest Giles, who shared that she has been such a positive influence on the community that the department recently prepared a special birthday cake, gift basket and certificate of appreciation to thank Emily for her kindness.
“We first met Emily last year, when she delivered thank you cards for the whole department,” Giles said. “During our difficult time this past June with the loss of Sheriff Bell and Deputy C. Fox, she delivered milk and cookies as comfort for us. Just recently she showed up on one of those really hot days with numerous cases of water. If a child can do this, it can change adults too. It’s changed us. We’re trying to bring a very important message into our community for people young and old – to encourage our youth to be positive and not mimic what they see on tv and video games. The least little thing you do may change people’s perception across the community. That little bit of thank you makes all the difference to us. It definitely has changed how we look at things down here. We always hear the negative and not the positive. A child giving that kind of respect – to know that she’s out there giving positive thoughts instead of being negative – to choose not to be caught up in the negative thoughts we have accepted in our lives – it’s what we can do to get the positive on the street. Just saying hello can matter. Show people ‘I respect you and I appreciate you.’ She’s a positive role model for kids – and adults. And we just want to say to Emily, ‘We thank you for putting smiles on our faces and thinking of us always.’”
Emily said that she plans to continue what she’s doing now for as long as she can, and her reaction to praise for what she does is simply, “I just love the expressions on people’s faces when I give them the cards, because I know that I’m making their day a little better.”
She shared that when she grows up, she wants to become a police officer in the canine unit, “Because I’ve always liked police officers and I’ve always wanted to do something with dogs, so it kind of works out with me.”
For now, when she’s not printing and handing out the cards, the 13-year-old stays busy making bracelets and t-shirts to sell so that she can pay for enough materials, stamps, and gas to keep her #Positive Patrol going. And on each bracelet and t-shirt she makes, she shares the same message – one which certainly applies to her as well: “#Positive Patrol – you’re worth more than you know.”