SALT LAKE CITY — Seven-year-old Matthew Greer couldn’t wait to get back home.
But since he was making new friends Thursday afternoon at Primary Children's Medical Center, his Highland home could wait.
"I like their jobs and I like how they save the world from criminals," Greer said.
He was talking about police officers.
For several hours Thursday, some Salt Lake City officers weren't going after bad guys. They were cutting out shapes from paper, working on their foosball skills, and playing video games.
"Nothing else matters, except that we sit there and we're friends with them and we play with them, " Salt Lake City police officer Cary Wichmann said.
Wichmann organizes this visit once a month.
Three years ago, he was in a hospital for four months and realized how lonely it can be.
“I made myself the promise that when I got out of the hospital, I was going to do everything I can to make sure others aren’t lonely,” he said.
That’s when he started “Cops Serving in the Community.” The goal of the group is to bring smiles to those who could use one.
"You know, there's really no specific talent you need to be able to volunteer. It's just giving of your time," Wichmann said.
Officers who volunteer do so on their own time.
“Some of them work difficult schedules to where this is actually the middle of their night, but they’re still willing to do it,” Wichmann said.
For detective Cody Lougy, doing crafts with the children is a nice change of pace. Normally he's working as a homicide investigator.
"Unfortunately, I do see some bad seeds and some bad situations, but coming up here, it's just one of those things that helps balance everything out,” Lougy said. “Kids at this age, we’re heroes to them. And we like that. It’s a building up for us, so it’s nice to see how excited they get when they see us and just spend some good quality time with them.”
Parents, like Matthew's mom, see a difference in their child right away.
“He was so excited. Even the nurses were excited about the difference it made to him as a patient," Kimberlee Greer said.
Victoria White, who works as a child life specialist at Primary Children's Medical Center, says “police day” is always a big deal to the children.
“They really light up,” White said. “They don’t always get to play with them or hang out with them. Afterwards, they’ll comment on how good they may have been at Mario Kart or something. Then they go home telling stories to everybody of what they did with the officers.”
For Wichmann, that’s exactly what the group is all about.
"If we can just give them a little bit of fun time in their day, that's really all that matters.”Comment on this story
The group also visits veterans at Veterans Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
For more information on the group, see www.copsservinginthecommunity.com.