5th-grader never got to meet fallen officer she helped

5th-grader never got to meet fallen officer she helped
Maria Messling

An Evansville fifth-grader will never get to the meet the officer she helped after he was killed in a crash Monday.

Maria Messling didn’t know what was planned for next month until Monday.

“I was looking forward to meeting Officer Copeland and Boris at the kick off of this fundraiser,” Messling said.

When Officer Ryan Copeland died in a car accident, it was revealed that he and his K-9, Boris, were going to surprise the 11-year-old with a visit.

“That might not happen anymore,” Messling said.

Every summer, Messling makes lemonade and brownies and sells them at a stand. The money she earns is donated to a charity of her choice, and last year, that nonprofit was Wisconsin Vest-A-Dog. She got the idea from a pet store pamphlet.

“It’s like keeping the dogs safe that keep people safe, so it would be helping both humans and dogs,” Messling said.

Messling raised about $100, only a small part of the cost for a protective K-9 vest. That said, it was a start, and it all went to Copeland and Boris.

“Basically, the only person who stepped up and really donated a large amount of money was Maria,” head of Wisconsin Vest-A-Dog Donna Morgan said. “So I talked with Ryan, and he was so grateful.”

Copeland was going to visit her for the holidays to show Messling firsthand what her money went toward.

“I feel very bad that Maria is not going to get that surprise now. Probably would have been the best Christmas gift she ever had,” Morgan said.

Now, the fifth grader is preparing to put 25 buckets out in classrooms across Theodore Robinson Intermediate School in Evansville. The hope is that students and staff will bring in their loose change and donate it to the cause. The project was approved long before Copeland’s death, but Messling thinks Copeland would be proud of her efforts.

“He’d probably be excited that another dog could have a vest,” Messling said.

Messling hopes to raise at least $800 with the new fundraising push, enough to cover the entire cost of a vest.

“The money is definitely going to be going to a good cause, to help dogs that are going to save people,” Messling said. “So I just think that if you give money, you’re saving a life.”

McFarland’s police chief said he plans on putting Boris with a new handler sometime in the future and hopes to keep up the K-9’s training so he will be ready to rejoin the force.

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