Badges and sirens were abundant on the Bulfinch Patio May 17 as children gathered to explore emergency vehicles and meet the personnel who operate them at the PUPP on the Patio Touch-a-Truck event. The hands-on event was sponsored by the newly formed PUPP (Police Uniting with Pediatric Patients) program – a collaboration between MGH Police, Security and Outside Services and MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s (MGHfC) John Hancock Child Life Program and Wellness Program – aimed at fostering relationships between patients and police.

A toddler sits on the seat of a police motorcycle and talks with a man in a McGruff the Crime Dog costume.
RIDINGS HIGH: Child life specialist Anne Pizzano and her son Oliver chat with McGruff the Crime Dog while atop a Chelsea PD motorcycle.

The PUPP program started as part of MGH Police, Security and Outside Services’ community policing efforts. “If our officers are called to a floor, there is almost always something stressful happening,” said Kristen Bolognese, MGH police officer and program co-developer. “Instead, this event is something fun that gets patients out of their hospital rooms and hopefully makes them feel a little less sick and a little more comfortable with us.”

Attendees – including patients, community members and employees’ children – were greeted by Perky, from the Chelsea K-9 Police Unit, and McGruff the Crime Dog. They explored an MGH police cruiser, a Boston EMS ambulance, a Boston Fire Department fire engine and Chelsea Police motorcycles. Children sat inside the vehicles to honk horns, push buttons and have their photos taken. Crayons and police-themed coloring pages allowed the youngsters to decorate figures in uniform and draw their own badge designs. Popcorn and cotton candy were handed out by MGH Police officers.

A school-aged boy in a wheelchair and a black Labrador retriever look at each other.
MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Joaquim Aguiar and Perky

“The goal of a Touch-a-Truck is to make kids more familiar with emergency vehicles and first responders,” said Shaun O’Halloran, MGH police officer and program co-developer. “We want kids to realize that we are friendly and here to help. Many local communities hold Touch-a-Truck events. This event gives our patient community, especially our inpatient community, a chance to attend one that they might not otherwise be able to attend in their own communities.”

MGH police officers also brought cotton candy and popcorn to the pediatric floors as a special treat for those who could not attend the event.

PUPP program staff plan to host bimonthly events for inpatient MGHfC patients and families. 

This article was originally published in the 05/18/18 Hotline issue.