Last summer, then-8-year-old Tyler Carach was in a grocery with his mom, Sheena, and made a joke when he saw four law enforcement deputies.
"He said, 'You know, Mom, cops' favorite drink is coffee and their favorite food is doughnuts,'" said Carach, a resident of Bratt, Fla., and former police officer. "Of course, we laughed and then, he used his allowance money to buy mini doughnuts for them and thank them for their service."
Tyler was surprised by the deputies' appreciation, she said, to which Carach explained the difficulties facing police officers across the country.
Now 9, Tyler made a goal to thank every police officer in America with a doughnut and visited the city of Laurel Police Department on Aug. 4 to share his ongoing support.
"It had a snowball effect and here we are one year later and we've been to 16 states so far with over 22,000 doughnuts delivered in well over 100 departments," Carach said. "It has been pretty awesome."
The Laurel Police Department was the final stop on the family's six-week summer trip, having visited other police stations in Florida, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Earlier that day, Tyler also delivered doughnuts to the Hartford County Sheriff's Office in Bel Air.
Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said it left him speechless to think about Tyler's objective, particularly in today's environment with rising tension between police and communities. McLaughlin and several officers welcomed Tyler with a certificate of appreciation as well as police department and city of Laurel memorabilia.
"Most 9-year-olds are scared of the police; he clearly was not in any manner. It was impressive," McLaughlin said. "It's pretty amazing when you have a child who is that approachable and that enthusiastic about interacting with the police. I thought it was pretty awesome."
Tyler and his siblings — Naudia, 14, and Zach, 13 — said they were all excited for their visit.
"I'm excited that I get to go to different places and meet officers," Tyler said. "I like to thank them to remind them that people still care because some people judge a whole by a few."
"I explained to him the importance of never doing that because we've all had a bad experience with a doctor or a teacher," Carach added. "If we judged every single one by that little handful, we would never have anyone in that group."
Since June 26, Tyler has handed out about 16,000 doughnuts, with approximately 13,000 provided by independently owned Dunkin' Donuts stores and 1,700 from Bill's Donut Shop in Centerville, Ohio.
Lisa Tucker and Jim Elam, siblings and co-owners of Bill's Donut Shop, said they were overjoyed to provide doughnuts for Tyler's effort. The small bakery's doughnuts reached about 30 jurisdictions in Montgomery County, Ohio.
"I think what this kid is doing is just tremendous," Tucker said. "We don't thank our officers enough. For this little boy to go out and try to thank as many police officers as he can, we couldn't turn down that opportunity to help him with that endeavor."
In addition to donations, Carach said the family also uses their own money to pay for the sweet treats. For future travels, she started a GoFundMe page to raise more money, which had reached nearly $2,700 out of their $10,000 goal as of Aug. 7.
"As long as Tyler wants to keep doing it, we'll keep going, putting the kindness back into the world and showing those who take care of us every single day that they're important to us," Carach said. "We appreciate and back them."
After taking a ride on a Segway at the Laurel police station, Tyler donned his doughnut-covered cape that read, "I Donut Need a Reason to Thank a Cop," and said he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
"I want to help people," Tyler said.