Being a teenager can be hard enough, but to lose nearly all of your worldly possessions is pretty much devastating
That's exactly what happened to 15-year-old Adam Hunwicks, whose house, along with everything in his bedroom — including his prized collection of police memorabilia — was destroyed by the EF2 tornado on July 15 that hit southeast Barrie.
Hunwicks, who has been dreaming of a career in policing for nearly half his life, was devastated that the collection he’d spent the better part of two years building was gone forever, and assumed it would take him years to slowly rebuild it.
That won’t be the case, as word quickly spread amongst not only those in uniform, but other citizens across the country who reached out to his family and to BarrieToday to offer items from their own personal collections.
To date, Hunwicks says he has received items from approximately 10 different police services, including Ontario Provincial Police, Las Vegas Police, Vancouver Police Service, York Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, CN Police and the Arlington (Tex.) Police Department.
He also had a NYPD coin gifted to him from an OPP officer, and has been contacted by a constable with the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service in northwestern Ontario — where the teen hopes to one day begin his career as a police officer — who has told him they would like to donate some patches to his new collection.
“That would be the farthest place in Ontario so far,” Hunwicks said.
Earlier this week, he said a retired Toronto police officer surprised him with a collection of antique hats that had been “very special” to her, which the teen has already displayed with honour on a shelf.
Meanwhile, Southern Georgian Bay OPP Sgt. Kathy Charlebois has enlisted the help of a few of her colleagues and gathered up a variety of different items from the training college as well as the Midland detachment.
Last week, BarrieToday was contacted by a member of the York Regional Police, who understood Hunwicks dream of becoming a police officer and wanted to help.
"I know what it’s like to want to be a cop for so long,” said one York Regional Police officer who contacted BarrieToday July 23 to help, adding he’d also grown up around a family of first-responders. “I know what that feeling is like and how he’s probably driven to get to that age, too, to join. … Anything to put a smile on their face.”
One of the emails received by BarrieToday was from a woman whose daughter had been out for a hike last month and stumbled upon a zip-lock bag full of police patches, which they wanted to donate to the teen.
Hunwicks also got a visit recently by a member of the OPP, who let the teen sit on his official OPP motorcycle.
“I am so grateful and happy to receive such kind gifts from so many officers. I never expected anything like this,” said Hunwicks, who now has about 100 items in his new collection.
His favourite piece, however, is still the Thin Blue Line wooden art that Barrie police Sgt. John Brooks recovered from his bedroom a few days after the tornado, as well as a personal letter he received from OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.