A cold December day is a perfect time for warm hugs, which a Louisiana girl amply supplied Wednesday to members of the Mount Airy Police Department during a special visit.
Rosalyn Baldwin, who recently turned 8, is on a quest to spread love to law enforcement officers in every state in the nation — one hug at a time. So far, Rosalyn and her parents, of Hammond, Louisiana, have visited 25 states, and the local police department was her second stopover in North Carolina.
She came up with the idea of showing appreciation to officers in response to shootings of police in Texas and Louisiana in 2016. “God told me to do it,” Rosalyn’s mother Angie said Wednesday in relating what motivated the child to embark on the uncommon road trip, which is designed mainly to say thanks.
“I know I’m little, but I have a big heart,” Rosalyn, a devoutly religious youngster, also told her mother when conceiving the idea that she hoped would be emulated by others.
Rosalyn began delivering her hugs at a sheriff’s office in her home state in January, and the mission has spread from there during holiday periods and breaks from her home schooling.
In addition to Louisiana and North Carolina, the journey so far has encompassed Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Oklahoma, Virginia, South Carolina, Texas and Missouri (including the embattled community of Ferguson).
The trips to different states are mostly financed by contributions to the GoFundMe website.
Rosalyn spent more than an hour with Mount Airy police Wednesday afternoon. After gathering in a conference room at the police station on Rockford Street, the girl hugged each of about a dozen officers who stopped in for the occasion, along with giving them a small blue crocheted heart.
Coming on the heels of much negative publicity leveled toward their profession in recent years, Rosalyn’s visit was a welcome gesture.
“What’s not to love?” Police Chief Dale Watson said after getting his hug from Rosalyn. “This little lady has captured everyone’s heart.”
“It’s huge,” Sgt. R.N. Bennett said of the impression made on him by the young visitor, while also remarking on the example she is setting for others.
“This is a great foot forward for the community, for the younger generation to see the influence that she’s making,” Bennett added.
“No matter how young you are or how old you are, you can make a positive difference in your community.”
Invitation spawned visit
Rosalyn’s appearance in Mount Airy Wednesday came about after Sgt. Stacy Inman, a community police officer with the city department, heard about what the girl was doing and made contact with the Louisiana family.
This included mailing a card and a stuffed animal to Rosalyn inviting her to come to Mount Airy. “We sent her a box,” Inman said of various souvenirs and other items that were assembled.
“Anything we could find with Mount Airy Police Department (on it),” Watson said.
This was aided by the fact that the Baldwins have ties to North Carolina, including a grandmother who lives in Chatham County.
While in Mount Airy Wednesday, Rosalyn posed for pictures with officers in addition to giving out free hugs. As a dog lover, one of the highlights for her was meeting a K9 officer with the police department, Stryker.
Angie Baldwin said the enthusiasm her daughter’s visit generated among police in Mount Airy has been mirrored elsewhere with law enforcement agencies big and small.
Such was the case in Roanoke, Virginia, a high-crime city.
“This just feels like they need me,” Rosalyn said when visiting officers there.
“So many policemen came in on their day off just to get a hug,” Angie Baldwin recalled of the response in Roanoke.
This has been mirrored as a whole during the various trips, which the mom described as “overwhelming” in terms of the emotions solicited. “You can feel it,” she said.
Eric Baldwin, Rosalyn’s father, who is in the ministry, said there also has been a payback to the family.
“Going around the nation, just to see childhood innocence received and reflected, has been a blessing to us,” he said.
“Personally, it has been an extremely spiritual journey,” Angie Baldwin said.
And that journey has left behind some thankful folks in Mount Airy.
“We appreciate what y’all are doing,” patrol officer W.M. Overby told the Baldwins during Wednesday’s hug-in at the police station.
“It’s very uplifting to know that the youth in our society are cognizant of law enforcement,” Chief Watson commented. “It’s very special.”
Angie Baldwin said that along with the goodwill, one thing Rosalyn and her family wanted to convey to officers was that someone cares about them while they undertake their sometimes-dangerous work.
“We pray for you all.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.