Cindy and Bill Richards

Cindy and Bill Richards of the Camano Island Sheriff’s Citizen Patrol want people on the roads to be visible in bright, reflective vests, even Ram Prasad, president of the Camano Law Enforcement Support Foundation. CLESF, the Richards and others have chipped in to fund the “Be Safe, Be Visible” vest program.

While walking or jogging on Camano Island, don’t be surprised if someone drives by and offers a reflective vest.

Since April, the Camano Island Sheriff Citizen Patrol and deputies have been giving out free, neon yellow vests as part of the “Be Safe, Be Visible” program.

The Citizen Patrol is a volunteer group that does vacation checks and police paperwork, freeing Camano Island deputies to do other work.

The “Be Safe, Be Visible” program was started by Citizen Patrol members Bill and Cindy Richards.

After retiring a few years ago, Bill Richards started walking 4 miles each morning on the roads of south Camano. He wore an orange vest to be sure that drivers could see him. This vest was from his days at Boeing when he wore it for visibility around the runway. He was acutely aware of how hard it is for drivers to see people on the road, especially when they wore dark clothing in the shadows.

He wanted his wife to be safe when walking, too. Finding nothing in orange, he bought her a neon yellow reflective vest.

Being safety and civic-minded, they bought extra vests last year to hand to people they saw on the road. But they ran into problems when handing them out from their car.

“The worst thing you can do is to pull up beside somebody and strike up a conversation,” he said. “I was frightening more people than I was helping.”

Since they were members of the Citizen Patrol, they decided that it would be better to give out vests when they were wearing their uniforms and driving a marked Citizen Patrol car. The group thought it was a good idea and ran with it.

“One Saturday morning we gave 12 vests away in about an hour,” he said. “People were just thrilled to get them.”

Now the Citizen Patrol team and Island County deputies watch for hard-to-see walkers and joggers who could use a reflective vest. The vest program, paid for by donations, has given away 85 vests to date.

“It warms our heart to share it with people,” Cindy Richards said.

She said that during the National Night Out on Camano Island, someone came up to the Citizen Patrol table and said, “We wear your vests every time we walk.”

“It’s a fun outreach to keep people safe on the road,” Cindy Richards said. “It’s a fun way to talk about life on Camano.”

To donate to the program, send a check to Camano Law Enforcement Support Foundation, P.O. Box 73, Stanwood, WA 98292

Staff reporter Peggy Wendel or 360-416-2189.

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