Just about a week after the Fourth of July, Michelle Wietbrock from West Lafayette, Indiana, pulled over the family vehicle so that her sons, Jack and Teddy, could help a small turtle make its way from the middle of Cherry Lane to the side of the road.
Michelle Wietbrock said, as reported by Lafayette Journal & Courier, that not all turtles they saw on their drives on Cherry Lane were so lucky, judging by the occasional carnage of one that didn’t make it to the other side.
Jack, her 8-year-old son soon to be in second grade at West Lafayette Elementary, took the plight of the turtles to heart.
“We were able to save that baby, but we had a couple of times that were some not-so-great moments of seeing turtles on the side of the road,” Michelle Wietbrock said. “I was trying to think of something productive to say as a parent. And Jack said, ‘Maybe we should send a letter to the mayor.’ I was like, OK, we’ll send him one.”
That evening, Jack composed a letter, in clear, handwritten block letters:
“Dear Mayor Dennis,
“There are turtles crossing the road and they need our help.
“Can you please put up a turtle crossing sign?
“Thank you, Jack Wietbrock, 2nd grade.”
He included a picture he drew of a car stopped and someone carrying a turtle. He captioned it: “We saved a baby turtle.”
On the morning of Aug. 6, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis summoned Jack and his family to West Lafayette’s weekly board of works meeting.
“The great thing about West Lafayette is we embrace the unique and, in some cases, the odd,” Dennis said, after inviting Jack to the podium. (Jack quickly ran to the mayor’s side.)
“So, we felt, you know what,” Dennis said, “there’s something we can do here that’s going to be kind of cool and celebrates Jack’s initiative on making us aware of a problem.”
Dennis said he had the street department – which has its own sign-making machine – make the warnings “to help our turtle population.” The signs were installed on Cherry Lane that afternoon. In addition, Dennis said another set will go up later on Cumberland Avenue.
Jack and his brother, Teddy, posed by the signs soon after they were put up.
That morning, Dennis asked Jack to say something, as his family – including his dad, Matt Wietbrock, formerly of the Purdue University Police Department – and the city’s administration observed.
Michelle Wietbrock said she hoped Jack’s suggestion would make a difference.
“That road, people are zipping right by all the time,” Michelle Wietbrock said. “It was great for the mayor to take Jack seriously.”
Dennis said the letter just made sense.
“Jack was so awesome about it,” Dennis said. “He is our Ninja Turtle hero.”
Read the story and view pictures here.