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Scout raises money to buy vests for W.V. police dogs

SHARE Scout raises money to buy vests for W.V. police dogs

WEST VALLEY CITY — The Boy Scout slogan tells Scouts to do a good turn daily. Aaron Cook's good deed will last a lifetime.

The 11-year-old donated three bulletproof vests to the West Valley Police Department's K-9 unit Tuesday. Now Bruno, Gomo and Aron have their own custom-made vests. Each vest weighs between 15-20 pounds while the K-9s weigh an average of 80 pounds.

The idea began as a project for Cook to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. But he soon found out he's too young to work on his Eagle Scout project. Cook decided to go ahead with the idea anyway.

"Now he's doing it as a service to the community," said Melanie Cook, Aaron's mother.

The Cook family doesn't even live in West Valley. They live in Taylorsville. Kelly Cook, Aaron's dad, is a former full-time officer with the West Valley Police Department and still works as a reserve. Aaron said that's where he got the idea.

"Because my dad was a police officer and because a dog got shot a couple of weeks before I decided to do the project," said Cook.

Cook said he didn't want to see any more dogs get hurt. His project was sparked by an incident in southern Utah last year when a dog was shot while his handler was serving a warrant.

After deciding what he was going to do, the Bennion Elementary School sixth-grader set out to raise the money needed. He started by going to nearly every business in West Valley City asking for donations.

"We have spent numerous hours driving and walking all over West Valley," said Melanie Cook.

The businesses averaged $10 to $15 per donation. But Cook was still able to raise $500.

Then Cook asked his neighbors to donate items he could use in a garage sale. The garage sale raised another $600.

Finally, Cook set up a donation jar at West Valley's annual West Fest celebration. He also participated in a demonstration with the K-9 unit and literally had the crowd throw money at him when it was over. He was able to raise another $200.

After 4 1/2 months of raising money, the Cooks were ready to purchase the bulletproof vests, which normally run about $900 each. The family found a company in Massachusetts, Armored Solutions, that was willing to sell three bulletproof vests at half-price.

Tuesday, Cook was honored by Chief Alan Kerstein as he turned the vests over to police.

"I think there have been too many incidents across the country where suspects have attacked K-9 units," Kerstein said. "When you consider the dangerous job (officers) do, K-9 work is exposed to the dangers a little more."

Since K-9s are the ones that usually have to engage in combat with a suspect, their chances for being stabbed or shot are high. Kerstein said the vests will be able to protect the dogs from a knife attack and a shot from a small caliber handgun.

Patrolmen Mike Christenson is the handler for Gomo, a German shepherd that takes commands in Czech. "This is an excellent, excellent gift. There are so many times I wished I had had this. The dogs go in before we do," he said.

Kerstein also praised Cook's skills as an entrepreneur and jokingly said hoped his next project will be to raise money for a new police station.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com