At a time when so many kids his age are looking up to pop stars and superheroes, 7-year-old Wesslee Berger has found his own personal heroes – local police officers.
And after watching the news with his parents and hearing about two police officers who were shot, the second-grader from Payson, Utah, told his mom: “I want to visit every police station in the state to tell them that and thank every police officer that I can.”
So last month, when he was done with school for the year, Wesslee helped his mom bake a batch of muffins and his quest got underway.
Wesslee’s first stop was the Utah Highway Patrol’s office in Murray, Utah, where he presented officers with a basket of baked goods and shook everyone’s hand.
“I wanted to say ‘thank you’ because there are so many officers getting hurt,” Wesslee tells PEOPLE. “I’ve always liked police. They’re the ones keeping us safe.”
With a dozen of Utah’s law enforcement agencies visited thus far, Wesslee is hoping to stop by several more of the 136 police stations on his list before school starts again in the fall.
“It might take me a year to visit them all, but I’m going to try,” he says. “They help fight the bad guys and deserve to be told they’re doing a good job.”
From an early age, Wesslee, who hopes to become a highway patrol officer someday, has always been fascinated by officers in uniform, says Valerie Berger, 31, a homemaker with two other children.
“At gas stations or restaurants, whenever Wesslee would see an officer or fireman in uniform, he’d walk up to them and start talking,” she tells PEOPLE. “So I wasn’t surprised when he said he wanted to thank them. Of all the role models to choose from in the world, I’m really happy that he picked this one. And he did it all on his own.”
“I’ve enjoyed the look of shock on police officers’ faces when they see Wesslee’s little hand come up to shake theirs and say, ‘thank you,’ ” adds the boy’s father, Travis Berger, 33, a heavy equipment operator. “He has a good heart and I hope he never loses that.”
Wesslee’s project has come with a few fun benefits: At the Utah Highway Patrol office, where he met with troopers and Salt Lake County detectives, he was presented with a collection of patches and pins to take home, and he played a game of fetch with a police K-9.
“What Wesslee has done is incredible – it’s come at just the right time for law enforcement,” says Salt Lake County Unified Police Department Detective Ken Hansen. “It’s good to have somebody, especially a youngster, reach out and say, ‘thanks.’ Hopefully, this is something that Wesslee will always remember.”
There is little question of that.
“These guys are my heroes,” says Wesslee, “and that’s why I’m doing this. I just want all the police out there to know that I appreciate them.”