Two Columbus Police officers were looking to support local youth when they popped by a neighborhood car wash last weekend, but they also ended up helping a local boy get closer to seeing the famous “Lambeau Leap” in person.
Columbus Police Department School Resource Officer Josh Loontjer and officer-in-training Jayden French were on patrol one day in late May when they saw signs along 38th Street promoting a neighborhood car wash approximately two blocks away from Lost Creek Elementary School.
“I told Officer French, ‘Any time you get to get out from behind the windshield and talk to the public in a positive manner, you need to do it,’” Loontjer said. “I think it’s important for the public to see us as people and not only see us when something bad is happening.”
It just so happened the mastermind behind the car wash was 10-year-old die-hard Green Bay Packers fan Tucker Wulf, who is getting some solid support from his good friend/neighbor Ethan Fiala. Just how big of a Packers fan is Tucker? So much so that his uncle bought stock shares in the publicly-owned team and gave them to his nephew, technically making the 10-year-old Columbus boy one of its thousands of owners.
“They’re my favorite team,” Tucker proudly affirmed.
Tucker has gotten to see his favorite National Football League team play in person twice, but both times were against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Tucker’s dream is to see his Pack play among the other self-proclaimed “cheeseheads” at their home stadium, Lambeau Field, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That’s where the car-wash idea came from.
Tucker’s parents, Abie and Terry, told their son he would have to raise the money for such a trip and experience. A lemonade stand was initially discussed before they pivoted to the car wash.
“I could make more money faster,” Tucker said of his reasoning for the switch. “My friend is helping me out.”
But that friend, Ethan, has no loyalty to the Packers. He’s actually an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, following in the footsteps of his aunt.
“I just think they’re a pretty good team. In my opinion, I think they’re better than the (New England) Patriots, but my dad doesn’t think that,” joked 13-year-old Ethan, who noted his father is a big Patriots fan.
Both boys said they doubt they’d convert the other to become a fan of each other’s team, but they split the profits they raise from their car-washing endeavor. Ethan is looking to put his earnings toward an animal habitat for amphibians and reptiles, something he proudly said he wants to buy on his own and not have to rely on his parents to get.
When Loontjer and French showed up to have their vehicle washed for $5, it was purely about making an impression on local kids, just like Columbus Police officers did for Loontjer when he was only a fifth-grade student at Emerson Elementary School back in the day.
“I remember having D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) as a kid and having Sgt. Brooks and Officer Maschmeier. It was great,” Loontjer recalled. “You remember your interactions with police, especially when they’re good. I think they pay off in the future.”
It wasn’t until they pulled up to the house that he realized he knew the Wulf family who live there, as both parents work at Columbus Middle School.
“We’ve known Josh a long time,” Terry said. “He’s a good guy.”
Abie echoed that sentiment, praising the Columbus Police Department for always working hard to be there for the community.
“I think they do a nice job of being present. They stop and make connections with kids in the neighborhoods to show they’re not only around during bad times but also good times,” she said. “Police officers get bad raps sometimes, so this just shows another side of their job description.”
It just so happened that the day the Columbus Police officers showed up was one of the best the boys have had so far in terms of money earned and cars washed. Admittedly, the boys said it was a tad nerve-racking at first washing a police car but any fear went away fast. The officers kicked back on some foldable chairs in the shade nearby as the boys went to work. Officer Loontjer knew both boys, having interacted with them at school.
“He asked if we had a car-wash license,” Tucker said of Loontjer’s joke. “I knew (Officer Loontjer), so it was fun. It was kind of cool.”
“They teased us a little while we washed,” Ethan said. “It was pretty fun.”
But washing the vehicle was no easy task. Some areas of the ride were hard to reach for cleaning, Ethan noted, but he added it was “still exciting.”
While the officers were getting their car washed, the Wulfs snapped a photo that was eventually published and shared on the social media pages of the Columbus Police Department and the other City of Columbus social media platforms. The photo got a lot of good feedback on Facebook, which Loontjer said he appreciated. But he stressed stopping at the car wash was never about that.
The school resource officer takes a lot of pride in working in the local educational facilities and getting to know the kids of Columbus, noting that it has opened doors for him like now helping coach Columbus High School football. He said he hopes Officer French will be inspired to stop at future lemonade stands and car washes when he sees them on patrol.
“It’s important we have that positive interaction,” Loontjer said. “We want to be a positive influence and leave a lasting memory.”
Ethan’s mother, Karen Fiala, said it made for a great experience. She recalled waving at the officers as she was leaving town at the time they arrived to have their vehicle washed.
“I think that it’s such a neat thing,” she said. “I saw the officers waiting on the street. They were extremely friendly.”
Terry Wulf and Heath Fiala (Ethan's father) said the car wash has been a great way to get the boys outdoors, noting the kids have been putting on car washes a couple of times each week since school got out for summer when the weather permits. Wulf suspects the car washes won’t stop, noting they’ll continue to post signs and be offering the $5 washes as long as Mother Nature cooperates this summer.
Tucker and Ethan are undoubtedly budding entrepreneurs.
“I’m definitely proud of them,” Fiala said. “It made me really happy that they have been getting out there enjoying the outdoors and doing a little work. They didn’t give up and have been staying with it.”
Ethan said he’ll continue to help out with car washes when he can to support his friend and hopefully earn enough money for what he would like to buy soon.
As for Tucker, he may still have a long way to go before he reaches his goal of watching the Green Bay Packers play at Lambeau Field, but he’s already got the perfect seats in mind: Row 1, behind the end zone. He’s determined to experience the “Lambeau Leap” up close.
The “Lambeau Leap” is a touchdown celebration in American football in which a player leaps into the bleachers behind the end zone after scoring. It was popularized on Dec. 26th, 1993, when then-Packers player LeRoy Butler jumped into the Lambeau Field bleachers after scoring a touchdown from a fumble recovery against the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
“I’ll be happy,” Tucker said of when he finally can go to a game. “Thank you to everyone who has come by. It’s going to help.”