Will Ketcher is a 4-year-old boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York. His closest companion, a stuffed cheetah named Roger, was always at his side.
That’s why he was so devastated when Roger went flying out of the window in Rhode Island. Will was visiting family with his parents when he lost his grip on the beloved stuffed animal, accidentally depositing it on Interstate 95.
Will was heartbroken that Roger had been lost.
Will was dangling Roger out of the window, letting him feel the breeze on his whiskers, when Roger spilled out onto the road. Will’s mother, Stephanie, remembers the day well.
“That instantaneous reaction of …’I told you not to do that, I knew he was going to fly out the window,'” Stephanie said to WPRI. “That quickly went away when I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw his sweet, sad face crumple up.”
With a constant stream of high-speed traffic, pulling over and walking out onto the roadway wasn’t an option. Will was devastated, and with no way of retrieving Roger, his parents watched their 4-year-old suffer his first major heartbreak.
That’s when Will’s father had the idea of having the boy write a letter to the Rhode Island Police Department. It was intended to be a way of helping their son cope with the loss in a healthy way, not an actual strategy to get Roger back.
“The letter was never designed to be effective,” Stephanie said.
With the help of his parents, Will wrote the letter and mailed it off.
The letter had all of the innocence and tenderness you might expect from a 4-year-old trying to recover a stuffed animal. Complete with illustrations to help police identify Roger, Will pleaded for the safe return of his precious friend.
“Dear Rhode Island State Highway Patrol,” the letter said. “I lost my Roger … can you please find him? … I love him”
“Roger is a cheetah. He fell out of the car window on Interstate 95 South. … He is about 12 inches long. Thank you all for your hard work, and for keeping us safe.”
The letter was sent off, and Corporal Lawens Fevrier was on the receiving end when it arrived at the Hope Valley Barracks. He said the letter touched him, and reminded him of his own young children.
“I know how important it is for them to sleep with their blankets or stuffed animal,” Fevrier told USA Today. “We were all 4 years old at one time in our lives.”
They weren’t able to find Roger, but they didn’t let that get in the way of cheering Will up.
“We actually did send search and rescue out there,” Fevrier said. “Unfortunately, it was raining and we just couldn’t find the one that he lost.”
Instead, the police department purchased a new cheetah and shipped it off, complete with a note that played into the narrative Will and his parents had created. The package arrived four months after the original letter.
The letter explained that while officers were looking for Roger, they encountered another cheetah who was looking for a new home. They trained the cheetah, and he is the first ever “Cheetah Trooper.”
Will was thrilled, and his mother couldn’t believe the kindness and consideration the police department showed her son.
“I saw the return label on the box and I couldn’t even believe it,” Stephanie said. “Everybody we have told this story to is moved almost to tears. Some actually to tears.”
“There’s so much negative stuff going on in the world, we’re inundated with it … it’s so refreshing to have something like this happen that just reminds you that there are really good people out there,” she said.