Like many in the uniform industry, Smith & Warren is always eager to support its customers’ philanthropic efforts. The White Plains, New York, badge manufacturer had partnered with the Miami Police Department before: Several years earlier, Smith & Warren had thrown its support behind a project that benefited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. So when the department reached out again in 2020, Lee Galperin, Smith & Warren’s president, didn’t hesitate.
But this time was different. For Galperin, it was personal.
The Miami PD asked Smith & Warren to create a badge that could raise money for its
Autism Speaks Walk on Wheels team. “My oldest son is autistic, so I was immediately drawn to the effort,” said Galperin.
Smith & Warren went to work on a concept, designing a center seal badge colored in blue, a color often associated with law enforcement. But this particular shade of blue is also known for its calming effects, an important consideration to those in the autism community. Smith & Warren also developed a relationship with the South Florida chapter of Autism Speaks, receiving input and advice from the organization. The end result was an event that raised over $7,700 for the group.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The program caught the attention of other local departments, as well as the national Autism Speaks organization. Smith & Warren decided to take the concept national, creating this year the Blue Badges for Autism Awareness Program. Ten percent of sales of the blue badges will be donated to Autism Speaks, as well as the local Westchester, NY Autism Speaks Chapter.
Galperin says that interest in the program has been strong and first responder feedback enthusiastic. “We’re getting contacted by first responders from all over the country who have children who are autistic and/or are involved in specialized training for how to interact and respond to a person with autism,” Galperin adds.
One such training program is run by the Autism Society of Greater Orlando, in partnership with the Bal Harbor Police Department, an initiative Galperin learned about through the blue badge campaign. The program teaches autism awareness training to first responders through live role-play training with autistic adults. They have trained over 54,000 first responders in the state of Florida as well as some in neighboring Georgia.
“One thing that many parents of autistic children think about is how they will relate to authority in an emergency situation,” noted Galperin. “We know that kids in school are being taught to be kind and accepting of people who are different. But how will this all translate when a child with autism becomes an adult and ends up in a situation where they need to interact with emergency first responders?”
The Blue Badges for Autism Awareness campaign is about kindness, compassion, and understanding for those who society has deemed “different.” Smith & Warren is encouraging departments to wear the blue badge in April during Autism Awareness month.
To learn more about the program visit http://www.smithwarren.com/autism