A young boy with his preschool class walks into The Merion on a cold January morning and quickly melts the hearts of residents and staff who are hosting their latest MerionCares event. He is dressed head to toe in a police costume to show his fondness and appreciation for those who often have a thankless job. For some of the police officers being honored at the senior living community, it will become a day they will remember for years to come.

In honor of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on Jan. 9, The Merion invited Evanston and Northwestern University police departments to enjoy brunch, refreshments, and heartfelt appreciation for the work they do. About two dozen officers attended, as well as more than 30 children from nearby Total Child preschool, who made cards and drawings for the officers.

“It was a great success to help remember police are people too and pay tribute to their commitment to protect and serve,” said Anne Ryan, social services/care coordinator at The Merion. “Seeing how everyone interacted on many different levels was quite touching.”

The day produced endless smiles across the faces of the three generations – kids, adults, and seniors – who gathered for one common goal: to share kindness. Various acts and gestures gave thanks to police, boosted spirits, and produced bonds among everyone in attendance.

“One officer was so touched by a picture two little girls made and gave to him that he told them he was going to put it up in his office and keep it forever,” Ms. Ryan said.

The young boy in the police costume got a handcuff demo from an NU officer. He also got a firsthand look at all the tools on an officer’s belt and uniform that he and many other kids dream about wearing.

 Several preschoolers talked with Merion residents while making pictures and drawings. When Margaret Keighley learned it was one preschooler’s birthday, she found a candle and recruited The Merion’s pastry chef to make and decorate a little cake. It led to a joyous presentation as everyone in the ballroom sang happy birthday to the young child.

“We’re always looking for ways to stay involved in Evanston activities and connected with various people and organizations,” explained Mark Zullo, marketing director of The Merion. “Community spirit and giving back are key parts of our MerionCares program. This is another project that’s united our community and given us all a great sense of purpose.”

The initiative supports study findings that purposeful aging can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, lower risks of developing mobility impairments, and allow residents of senior living communities to live healthier lives.

“We take a lot of pride in providing activities that promote purposeful aging and want to be a center for that in Evanston,” said Mr. Zullo. “I think everyone treasured the benefits of this experience to show our appreciation for law enforcement officials, connect the greater community, and showcase all the good there is in Evanston.”