Following the closure of St. Charles County school districts on March 16 to combat the spread of COVID-19, officers in the O’Fallon Police Department noticed that local families were facing anxiety in the face of homeschooling, telecommuting and general quarantine.
To help provide families with a safe distraction, the O’Fallon Police Department launched the “Keep Them Busy” campaign where kids of all ages create pieces of police-themed artwork and photography in the safety of their homes. Artists then submit their pieces to the police department via direct messaging through Facebook and other social media channels.
“It was a super simple idea,” Public Information Officer Tony Michalka told Mid Rivers Newsmagazine of the campaign. “Last Sunday, as the school districts were closing, we noticed there was a lot of anxiety among parents. Like, ‘How am I going to handle homeschooling?’ We thought, as police, we could help provide a form of engagement that provides a fun form of relief, even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day.”
Michalka said that, since the campaign’s launch, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Michalka was even interviewed about the “Keep Them Busy” campaign by Fox News and CNN about the program’s success.
“I suspected it might run its course in a few days, but it’s really taken on a nationwide interest,” Michalka said.
The artists so far have been as young as preschoolers, but even some older students have gotten in on the fun.
“We’ve even had some high schoolers participate,” Michalka said. “Some of these works are like what you’d see in an exhibit.”
According to Michalka, the department tries to post between three to four pieces of artwork a day, with the eventual goal to upload each and every piece that had been submitted.
“It’s basic relief,” Michalka said. “These are unprecedented times in modern history, and if you can find one small thing, it helps … We’re not talking about the virus. For a little bit, it pulls people’s attention away from reality.”