The Salvation Army of Spokane is in need of bell ringers this holiday season to help fund the important work that they do all year. I wanted to come up with a different way to tell this story. Did it work? I don’t know. But inspired by the man who once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” (-Michael Scott), I met up with “James Wingman”.
After following a Spokane Police Department patrol car for a while Thursday morning, it finally pulled over.
My photographer Gabe and I pulled in behind them. We were there to document Officer Graig Butler and Richie Plunkett’s latest mission. They got out of their car, walked up to ours and spread out some materials across our hood. After going over the game plan, it was time for the mission to begin.
But first, Officers Butler and Plunkett needed to do one more important piece of preparation: They needed to put a diaper on a goat. A goat named “Sushi”.
Despite having kids of their own – human kids, not goat kids – the tasked proved to be a little more challenging than originally anticipated, but through teamwork, trial and error, and ultimately a bigger diaper, they got the goat all set in case it got wet.
“Come on, Sushi,” Officer Butler said as Sushi strutted up the driveway to our target house. “You’re holding me up here, kid.”
So what does a goat in a diaper trotting up a driveway next to a Spokane Police Officer have to do with Thursday’s mission?
I’m glad you asked.
A few years ago, Officer Butler met now 7-year-old Elijah and his brother, Isaiah, at a “Touch a Truck” event. A bond was formed between the officer and youngsters and the three have stayed in touch every since.
“His mom would always write thank you letters for our interactions,” Officer Butler recalled.
The latest “Thank You” letter a few months ago included an odd request from Isaiah to Officer Butler.
“He asked for a goat,” Butler smiled.
I asked Isaiah why he asked a police officer to bring him a goat.
“Because I like goats,” he laughed.
Fair enough. Officer Butler remembers another note written by Isaiah’s mom included on the card.
“The mom was like, ‘Don’t bring us a goat’,” Butler said.
However, it had just so happened that Officer Butler had recently heard of a unique way to make Isaiah’s goat dream come true.
“I had just done a fundraiser for the Wishing Star Foundation where I learned they have another fundraiser where they deliver goats to people in an unsuspecting way,” Butler said.
Butler was of course talking about the non-profit’s “Send a Friend a Goat” campaign, which raises money for the organization to help support children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses and their families. If someone sends you a goat, you can make a donation to the Wishing Star Foundation for the delivery person to take it away, and for $60 you can send the goat to a friend of yours.
Having a specific request for a goat from his young friend, Officer Butler seized the opportunity and brought Sushi to meet Elijah and Isaiah at their home on Thursday.
“I heard you guys wanted a goat, what do you think?” Officer Butler said as the two young kids opened the door.
The answer was instantaneously obvious as both kids smiled from ear-to-ear and let out loud laughs.
“Why is it wearing a diaper?” Elijah immediately asked when the laughter subsided.
“I’ll give you one guess,” Officer Butler replied.
As a member of SPD’s Community Outreach, Officer Butler says a years-long relationship like he has with Elijah and Isaiah is just one of many he’s developed as a mentor in the community. He’s also involved with the Police Activities League Boxing Program.
“I think we all feel special when we get personal attention from anyone. So I try to make each relationship meaningful,” Butler said. “There are times when it might just be a single interaction, but there are young men that I talk to on a weekly basis.”
And on Thursday, there was another connection and for two boys, a day made by two Spokane Police Officers… and a diaper-wearing goat.
After their visit with Elijah and Isaiah, Officers Butler and Plunkett took Sushi to a Spokane Valley fire station where the firefighters promptly, but graciously, decided to send Sushi along to another fire station.
Orders for in-person goat visits through The Wishing Star Foundation are closed for this year’s fundraiser, but you can still schedule a virtual goat visit through Mother’s Day.
However, if you’re not interested in a goat visit but do want to help out, you can find more information on how to donate or volunteer HERE.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom on Friday (myself included) as little Zion officially joined the Perkins family on National Adoption Day!
“Do you know why you’re here today?” he was asked as Friday’s proceedings got underway.
In front of a packed room, Zion shyly shrugged, but he knew. When I asked him the same question about 10 minutes earlier he excitedly said, “I get to get adopted today.”
Make no mistake, Zion has always been part of Jason and Denise Perkins’ family, essentially from the day he was born as they have fostered him for nearly 7 years or 2,536 days as Zion’s sign so proudly proclaimed. However, out of all of those days, Friday was perhaps the best day as he officially became the Perkins’ son.
“We kind of want to keep him forever,” jokingly told Denise Perkins told Judge Plese while tearing up.
One-by-one – grandmas and grandpas, case workers and teachers – all spoke to the courtroom about how much they loved Zion and how happy they were to welcome him to the family.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this little guy who’s probably going to be my only grandson,” Denise’s dad and Zion’s official new grandpa said.
During all the testimony, the man of the hour, Zion, sat and listened patiently as his new family surrounded him with love.
“Thank you so much for welcoming this little guy into your hearts,” Denise said to everyone in attendance.
“You’re my whole world, buddy,” Zion’s dad Jason said. “I love you very much.”
While Zion is now officially a Perkins, Adoptions Supervisor for the State of Washington’s Department of Children, Youth and Families Diana Salinas said there are many more children across the state looking for a either an adoptive or foster family of their own.
“In Washington State there’s 1200 children, probably more, waiting for adoptive homes and in Spokane we’ve actually adopted 163 children just through this month,” Salinas said.
Friday was National Adoption Day in Spokane (it’s also celebrated on Saturday, but courts aren’t open on weekends), and Salinas said it’s a chance to highlight the parents who have taken the step into adoption, but also to get the word out about the need for foster parents and adoptive parents in our community.
“We do have a need for foster parents and people who are willing to be long-term adoptive parents,” Salinas said. “There’s a great need for people who can just foster short periods of time until we find a permanent home for those children and that’s a huge need. You don’t have to sign up and be willing to adopt a child forever.”
If you’d like to know more about the foster/adoption program in Washington, CLICK HERE.
Seven years ago, Jason and Denise Perkins made the choice to foster a newborn baby and while it’s been a long journey, it’s one that officially ended Friday when they gained a son forever.
“That’s why we went into foster care,” Denise said. “To positively impact kids and it’s a hard journey, but oh my goodness, it’s so worth it. We can’t imagine our life without Zion.”
And it’s a choice they wouldn’t change for the world as Zion is now officially Zion James Perkins.
“Zion, it’s now official,” Judge Plese said while signing the papers at her bench. “You are now adopted. It’s a boy!”
A viewer called and was frustrated that scammers were targeting her mother. So I asked if I could call them back for her. She agreed and I managed to waste at 20 minutes of “David’s” time, which was 20 minutes he wasn’t able to scam someone else.
The man, who identified himself as David, also said she had won a brand new 2020 Lexus!
It all sounds great and it would be. If it were even remotely true.
It was scam.
One of the many dead giveaways?
“In order to do that, they have to pay the taxes now and the company will pay them, but we need to pay one percent of them,” Shanon told me on Thursday.
Shanon thankfully knew that and didn’t fall for it. She did, however, play along and was told to pay the one percent tax of the $2.5 million and brand new Lexus (she specifically requested seafoam green), she would need to go get two OneVanilla prepaid Visa cards, load them with $450 each and then call him back with the codes on the cards.
Nevermind that $900 isn’t even remotely close to one percent of $2.5 million, or the fact that the person never even really specifically asked who they were talking to (eventually, it was said that they were looking for Shanon’s mother), the Federal Trade Commission specifically identifies this as a scam on their website saying, “Legitimate sweepstakes don’t make you pay a fee to get your prize. That includes paying ‘taxes,’ ‘shipping and handling charges,’ or ‘processing fees.’ There’s also no reason to give someone your checking account or credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.”
Shanon didn’t have plans to call “David” back, but I asked if I could.
“Yes, you have my permission to do so,” she chuckled. “And mess with him all you want.”
So I called him on the number he left for Shanon from Stateline, Idaho. The number was a Las Vegas area code, however, the FTC also recommends not trusting your caller ID. “David” told me he was actually based in New York.
“Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID,” the FTC says. “They might use an official-sounding name like Publishers Clearing House or Reader’s Digest.”
A man identifying himself as Daniel answered the phone.
I quickly found out that theatrics plays a bit of a role in this ruse as “Daniel” quickly pretended to go and fetch David while letting me listen.
Again, I didn’t give the man any specifics on who I was calling about or where I was located, but he didn’t seem to care. I simply told him I was calling on behalf of my grandma and he supposedly knew exactly who I was talking about.
“She won $2.5 million?” I said excitedly.
After a brief pause: “Oh, yes! We contacted her yesterday.”
Again, no specific names have been exchanged. He hasn’t even asked for my name at this point.
At first, “David” didn’t seem interested in helping me right away. He did, however, seem to put the pressure on by saying he needed the paperwork processed immediately or they would have to give the “prize” to the second place winner.
He seemed dismissive and told me he’d call me later, but when I informed him that I had the money on the cards and was ready to complete the process, he suddenly was interested in making the deal happen right away.
All while assuring me, this wasn’t a scam.
“You guys are legit, right?” I asked him.
“Listen to me, sir,” he replied sternly. “What I’m telling you right now is this is legitimate because this call that we’re on right now is being recorded and being monitored.”
“By whom,” I inquired.
“By the FBI,” he confidently said. “This is legitimate. 100 percent legitimate.”
Reassured that the FBI had my back (*sarcasm, folks), I chatted up David a bit before getting to the numbers on those cards he wanted.
“We really need this money, you know?” I said before launching into a sob story. “No one told us life was gonna be this way. My job’s a joke, I’m broke, my love life is D.O.A. I feel like I’m stuck in second gear.”
“Do you think after you drop off the money, like after we get that all taken care of, do you want to like go get some lunch or laser tag or something?” I eagerly asked.
“Get some lunch or something?” he replied a little confused.
“Yeah, I’ll have a bunch of money, so I’ll take you to laser tag!” I said.
“Yes, of course! We always do that!” he said.
But as excited as he sounded for some laser tag, he really just wanted the numbers on my imaginary gift cards, so I gave them to him. Rattling off the first random numbers that popped in my head.
“7,19, 4312” I told him as he repeated them back. “This number looks like, do you remember when Prince turned himself into a symbol? It looks like that… oh, it’s a four. This one looks like a banana. Oh, that’s a one”
He initially told me the gift cards would have 16 numbers on them. I gave him 23, and one Prince symbol.
After a bit of a pause, “That’s way more than 16 digits, sir,” David said with a hint of frustration.
It was time to come clean with him.
“Hey David can I be honest with you for a second? I feel like you’re my friend and we have a level of honesty,” I began before telling him what really happened to my imaginary cards.
“I had the cards. I got them yesterday and then on my way home a guy stopped me and offered me magic beans for them and I traded them straight up. Now I planted the beans and nothing has happened, but I will give you the beans when you guys come give me my money.”
He didn’t seem interested in that trade.
“So you’re telling me that you do not have the cards, right?” he said with a definite level of frustration in his voice after nearly 15 minutes of this.
“I will give you those beans. I have three pots, they all have magic beans in them and I will give them to you. That’s a fair trade,” I assured him.
“David” was done talking.
“Ok sir, I have a delivery I have to get to in California,” he said after an audible sigh. “So whenever you get the card, let me know because this seems like you’re playing a game.”
Sensing he was done, I asked him the question I had been putting off.
“David, I want to work with you here, but I also want to know why you’re scamming people? Like, how good do you feel about that? You’re scamming old people,” I said just right before he hung up.
David did call back about 10 minutes later. He still tried to convince me that it wasn’t a scam and he was going to “publish the winning on CNN” to prove it was real.
A little more serious this time, I grilled him on why he was scamming people out of their hard-earned money. I told him legitimate prize winners don’t pay taxes in gift cards. I even referenced the same FTC article I hyperlinked above and told him what he was doing was a well-known scam.
He countered all of that by saying he and his company were actually the ones putting out that information in an effort to make people aware of the scam, but they certainly were not the scammers. They were the good guys.
“David” again mentioned the winnings (for the person who hadn’t even been named in our conversation and he still didn’t know my name) would be out in the news soon.
I told him I was a reporter.
“You’re a reporter?” he sighed.
“Yes, sir” I said.
He hung up.
In total, I kept him occupied for around 20 minutes, which hopefully was 20 minutes he couldn’t be out scamming someone.
As fun as all of that was for my Friday morning, this is a very serious issue and one you and your family need to be on the lookout for because people are getting money stolen from them every day.
Legitimate sweepstakes don’t make you pay a fee to get your prize. That includes paying “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges,” or “processing fees.” There’s also no reason to give someone your checking account or credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.
Don’t send money transfers or gift cards, or give personal information. Sending money transfers or gift cards (or providing the gift card numbers) is like sending cash: once the money’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. The same goes for sending money by mail or using a money order.
Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. They might use an official-sounding name like Publishers Clearing House or Reader’s Digest.
If you receive a scam call, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357 or online here.
May 1 was Lunch Hero Day! A time to celebrate those heroes who make sure the children in our community get the nutrition they need, especially during these times! Here’s the news bulletin I put together for it! Props to my photographer, Kyle Prothe, for achieving the vision and editing this!
Some of the amazing farmers of Eastern Washington found they had a surplus of potatoes (3 BILLION pounds) during this shutdown, so rather than let it go to waste… they are giving it away to the public and to those in need right now! My trip to Ritzville on Wednesday ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️🥔🥔🥔🥔🥔