Kaisen Neuharth, age 2, and GPD Officer Jamisen Norlander stop for a pic after washing a GPD police car together on Wednesday, March 25.
How one mom’s post prompted first responders across the state to wash cars, send pics and so much more
With the coronavirus sweeping across the U.S., it sometimes seems that a little bit of magic would do the nation some good as the big decision makers and those first responders on the front lines of the fight against the virus’ spread are doing just that.
But it’s another kind of magic — the magic of ordinary human connection — Gillette mom Jamie Neuharth talks about when describing the experience of taking her two-year-old son, Kaisen, to the car wash to meet with a cop, amongst all the craziness in the world, to wash a dirty squad car last week.
It was a regular Tuesday, she said, telling the story of her “random” Facebook post to the Gillette Area Classifieds page on March 24.
In the post, Jamie called for “anyone with an emergency vehicle” to share a picture of it getting a car wash.
“My almost three-year-old is CONVINCED that they aren’t getting washed and he’s heartbroken,” she said, “and no amount of telling him they get washed has worked,” she continued, pleading with an online community of complete strangers.
She finished her post with a hand-in-face emoji, sharing the frustrations she’d been feeling.
After Kaisen’s first trip to the car wash in early March, the toddler, who has a sensory processing disorder, became “obsessed” with cars being clean, especially the unique cars he likes best, his mom said, including ambulances, mail trucks, delivery trucks, fire engines, cop cars and even construction equipment, among others.
“Cop cars are definitely his favorite,” Jamie said.
People began responding to the post within minutes, she recalled.
“I almost cried,” she added, watching the community and other communities, too, come together to find commonalities for Kaisen, especially “with everything (going on) in the world.”
The outpour of responses warmed her heart.
“It blew up,” she said. “I was not expecting that.”
One of the first policemen tagged was Gillette Police Department Officer Jamison Norlander.
“I think multiple people tagged him,” she said.
It wasn’t long before Jamison answered the call by posting a pic of his GPD patrol car 58 “Fresh Outta The Car Wash!!” he wrote, followed by an invitation for Jamie and Kaisen to meet up with him at the car wash later that week.
“I most likely can find a dirtier ride than mine,” he added. “I’m working Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during the day.”
The three met quietly at the Rain Locker Car Wash the very next day — just a mom, her concerned toddler and a policeman who cared.
There was no fanfare, no media, no GPD or city outreach.
“It wasn’t about that,” Officer Norlander said, humbly.
He and Kaisen washed his car, he said. That was about it.
But Jamie tells a different story.
“I am pregnant,” she shared. “So, I have the hormones going and it all just got to me.”
For the Neuharths, it was a very big deal.
He doesn’t like things being messy or dirty, Jamie said of Kaisen. So, when he sees cars driving around with mud or dirt on them, even in the winter, he can become very agitated, she said, adding that her son’s very observant and the family lives near the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office.
“That police car is dirty!” her son had begun saying, repeatedly, in the weeks before her post.
He’d say that whenever the two would encounter a police car or CCSO vehicle around town, which was surprisingly often, she said. “Each time, it’d set him off.”
Jamie began to Google images of clean police and emergency response vehicles to show Kaisen, in an effort to comfort and appease him.
“He wasn’t having any of that,” she smiled. “He knew those weren’t the same vehicles we see around Gillette, and those were the ones that he was truly concerned about.”
She admitted that she’d considered calling the local police department or sheriff’s office for a picture of a clean car after her grandma had advised that she do so.
“I’m sure they would have sent one,” she said, but with everything going on she wasn’t sure she wanted to bother them.
And so, she took to Facebook.
“Someone would surely have a picture of a clean one,” she had thought, never expecting such kindness, not only from Officer Norlander, who drove down muddy dirt roads to get his car extra dirty before meeting up with the Jamie and Kaisen, but also from all the amazing people who commented on the post, those who tagged others and shared photos of clean EMS vehicles from across the state.
“I definitely didn’t expect that kind of response,” she said. “Everyone went above and beyond.”
When they look back at pictures from that day, Jamie said, “Kaisen says, ‘WOW!!’” she smiled. “He knows that car is clean!”
And, now, they have an album of clean vehicles to show him each time he becomes concerned.
“That’s so cool,” Kaisen’s dad, who travels frequently as the area manager of a national restaurant chain with multiple franchises across the region, said. “But why would anybody reply?” he questioned, jokingly.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just so thankful.”