Makayla Kepler was just three years old when she decided to become a police officer.
Kepler, a third grader at Lovell Elementary School in Apopka, started out being afraid of police until one day in 2011 at a community Easter event she met Officer Clarkson with the Wildwood Police Department. Clarkson was working a detail when he attempted to say hello to Makayla, but she hid from him due to her fears. Clarkson spent the rest of the event smiling and waving at her every time he saw her. Finally, he got down on one knee and called her over. After a bit of encouragement from her family, she finally went over and talked to him. After about twenty minutes she suddenly threw her little arms around him.
We didn’t know then, but that was the moment things changed for her.
Makayla is 10-years-old now, and after seeing so much negativity toward police, she decided to do something to let them know they were appreciated.
One day, Makayla was painting goodwill rocks with her grandmother Sharon LaCrosse when she came up with the idea to paint rocks just for police. Instead of hiding them in the community for anyone to find, she wanted to make sure that only officers received them, and so “Cops Rock” rocks were born.
Makayla handed out her first Cops Rock rocks in November 2017 to Orange County deputies Heiden and Smith after they responded to a 911 hang-up call. Since then she has personally given away over 400 rocks to police officers. She and her family drive around or attend community events almost every weekend. Makayla’s small token of support has reached officers and deputies from several agencies including Orange County, Orlando, Seminole County, Casselberry, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, Sanford, Lake Mary, Lake County, Edgewood and almost every Apopka officer. Makayla and Officer Clarkson were reunited in March of this year after seven years, and she gave out rocks to Wildwood officers as well.
Makayla dreams of becoming a K-9 handler one day and plans to continue spreading her love and appreciation for law enforcement. The support, encouragement, and love she has received in return from each and every officer has made a significant impact on her.
Makayla’s story has even spread to other states and even Germany after a mother of a police officer in Virginia saw her reunion with Officer Clarkson. Mrs. Jennifer Johnson started #patchesformakayla which has prompted several officers from Texas, Virginia, Maryland and even Germany to send her patches from their departments. Makayla has been sending rocks to those individuals as a thank you as well.
Chief Michael McKinley of the Apopka Police Department was particularly appreciative of Mikayla’s efforts.
“Tonight I would like to take a moment and recognize one of our city’s outstanding youth,” McKinley said at the City Council meeting Wednesday night. “I am confident that one day she will reach her goal of becoming a K-9 handler and with the determination and hard work she already displays I’m also confident she will achieve whatever she sets out to do in her life. The men and women of the Apopka Police Department want to recognize Michaela Kepler tonight and present her with a certificate of appreciation for her cops rock campaign.”