D.A.R.E. to Care: Van Otterloo recognized for commitment to Spencer’s youth
Posted on July 31, 2016 by D.A.R.E. in Events, Hometown, Iowa, News
Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m., athletes young and old will line up near
the boat ramp at West Leach Park to help raise funds for the 2017
graduating D.A.R.E. class and to demonstrate a commitment to stay drug
Above: Lt. Kyle Van Otterloo with the Spencer Police Department
takes a selfie of himself and the pack of runners prior to the start of
last year’s D.A.R.E. 5K Fun Run. This year’s run will be conducted at 8
a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, near the boat ramp at West Leach Park. Van
Otterloo, who organizes the run, was recently presented with the state’s
D.A.R.E. Peer Recognition Award.
The D.A.R.E. 5K Fun Run is in its third year, helping to fund the
graduation trip to Arnolds Park for sixth-graders who complete the
Spencer Middle School D.A.R.E. curriculum. A free Bicycle Rodeo has been
added this year, allowing for kids to receive bicycle safety tips from
Organizer of the event, Spencer Police Department Lt. Kyle Van
Otterloo, the local D.A.R.E. instructor, was recently honored by his
peers at the state level with the Peer Recognition Award. The award,
which was presented to Van Otterloo at the annual D.A.R.E. Conference in
Osage, acknowledges the officer’s dedication and commitment to the
local D.A.R.E. program, D.A.R.E. Iowa and the local schools and
“It was supposed to be a surprise but I’m on the board so …,” Van
Otterloo said. “If I wasn’t on the board it would have been a surprise.”
He continued, calling the honor “humbling. That’s probably the answer
everybody wants to give. But it’s probably the best word. … I’m very
appreciative of it, but it’s hard to wrap my head around it because I am
having fun with it. Making a difference makes it worth it.”
Van Otterloo, who serves as sergeant-at-arms for the Iowa D.A.R.E.
Association, was nominated by Lincoln Elementary School teachers Amy
Thompson and Abbey Skalla who were on hand at the meeting to present him
with the award. Spencer Police Chief Mark Warburton, and fellow Lts.
Micah Van Otterloo and Brad Rasmussen also attended.
“It is one of those things where we teach, it’s not rocket science,”
Van Otterloo said. “We teach basic stuff, but it’s breaking a wall down
between police officers and school age children. We’re no different than
anyone else. We just have a job to do.”
While the focus used to be solely on developing a drug free
mentality, the D.A.R.E. curriculum has expanded to include other
components that preteens and teens face today including bullying,
getting out of difficult situations, peer pressures, being a bystander
and becoming a good citizen.
“We’ve added a few things into there to help out with the situations
they will be going into as young people,” Van Otterloo explained.
For the D.A.R.E. officer, the key to the whole program is the
relationships he builds with the students which he believes continues as
they grow into adults.
“I tell them never to call me Officer Van Otterloo or Lt. Van
Otterloo. I want them to call me Kyle. I’m looking to extend a
friendship,” he explained. “That is one of the things I want out of this
program and it’s the biggest part of this program — the relationships I
now have with the older kids and young adults. We’ve actually had a few
incidents where people have been more forthcoming as a result of that
relationship. I don’t know if that’s because of the relationships we’ve
built. But it doesn’t hurt. I’m looking to establish a friendship.”
Part of building that bond is offering the fun day at Arnolds Park for the program graduates.
“Three years ago,I realized that we should start raising money to get
the kids to Arnolds Park. Every year the graduating kids’ class, the
police department pays for the kids to go the park and pays for the
transportation to get them to the park,” Van Otterloo explained. “At the
time, I was participating in a lot of 5K runs and that’s where this
Last year, a good group of cross country runners participated in the
run, and this year, Van Otterloo is encouraging them to return along
with Spencer football and volleyball athletes, along with alumni,
parents and competitors of all ages.
Participants in the D.A.R.E. 5K Fun Run can register the day of the
run. Donation is $20 for adults and $10 for youth. There will be sausage
sandwiches served, along with slushes, fruit, drinks and more.
“Any sports kids involved at Spencer can come out and show their
classmates they want to stay drug free by participating in this,” Van
Between 125 and 135 kids graduate from the D.A.R.E. program in
Spencer each year. The park charges $10 per student and the school
district has provided the bus at no cost.
“The community support for this run has been huge and we hope it only continues to grow,” he said.