Spencer Roberts had the typical first-day jitters when she started kindergarten on Wednesday. But as she and her mom, Sammi Roberts, neared the Frederica Street exit ramp from the US 60 bypass, Spencer could see the welcoming blue and red police lights at the Owensboro Catholic K-3 campus that were there — just for her.
Spencer’s dad, Blake Roberts, died after an ATV accident in July 2017, leaving behind Sammi, and their two daughters, Spencer and Sutton. Blake was employed by the Owensboro Police Department and had been training at the Department of Criminal Justice Training Academy in Richmond, Kentucky.
Sergeant Duane Harper of the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office retired from OPD and had the opportunity to mentor Blake. Recognizing the significance of Blake not being able to be present for Spencer’s first day of school, Sergeant Harper stepped up to help fill the role.
He, along with several other officers from the Sheriff’s Office, Owensboro Police Department and Kentucky State Police lined the entrance drive to Owensboro Catholic K-3 campus with their patrol cars.
Officers greeted each student at the door as they entered the school on Wednesday.
“We didn’t want to single Spencer out,” Harper said after consulting with Sammi.
It was their fear that special attention would require Spencer to explain why her dad was not there, something that neither Harper nor Sammi wanted. Instead, they came up with the plan for a grand welcoming party for the entire school, something Owensboro Catholic K-3 Principal Jim Tinius says was a “really nice surprise.”
“It was a very nice gesture to remember [Spencer] and her family like that,” Tinius said.
And although each child did receive a high-five or handshake when entering the school, Spencer received a special escort from Sergeant Harper, her dad’s friend, and mentor.
Sammi said Spencer was shy during the moment, which is to be expected for a child starting kindergarten. But after school Spencer recounted her morning to family, saying, “Do you know police officers came to school just for me?!”
Sammi expected first-day nerves from Spencer but had no doubt she would love school.
“What was hard for me was what she missed out on,” Sammi said.
And although a year has passed since her husband’s death, Sammi says the support she has received from local law enforcement has been amazing. “Blake didn’t get all the way there,” Sammi said. “He was just a cadet. But they still treat us like family.”