Started in 1995 by Canadian third grade teacher Dale Hubert, the ‘Flat Stanley Project’ was intended to make connections between school children from all over the world. The concept was inspired by the book series, “Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures”, chronicling the worldwide travels of the mythical character Stanley Lambchop.
The concept was simple. In the book series, Stanley travels the world in envelopes. As part of the project, the students would design their own ‘Flat Stanley’, mail it to a cooperating school from various parts of the world, who would then forward it to another, eventually making it’s way back to the original sender. Along the way, those who received the ‘Flat Stanley’ would write about his ‘experiences’ while in their company and send that along with him as he traveled; the idea being that the children would learn about other cultures and the world would get a whole lot more intimate and smaller.
Brothers Before Others Founder/President Michael Burke has always focused on the fraternity of the law enforcement community. We often refer to each others as brothers and sisters, and that is not by accident. Who knew that, unwittingly, Michael would piggy-back off of the ‘Flat Stanley Project’ and start his own law enforcement version??
Early 2014, on nothing more than a whim, Michael created a law enforcement owl he affectionately named ‘Hooleo’. In reality, the owl was nothing more than one of those plastic props used to flank gardens with the intent of fending off rodents. Michael would bring this owl around with him to different BBO/law enforcement events, have people sign him with a marker, attach stickers or pins and pose with him for photos. The obvious intent was to amass signatures from all over the country as a way of showing how far-reaching our fraternity really is.
Leave it to the Massachusetts cops to take this game to the next level. While attending an event where ‘Hooleo’ was present, the dirty New Englanders, Sergeant Aaron Gill of the Massachusetts DOC and Sergeant Greg Fawkes of Ashland PD (MA) kidnapped Hooleo and transported him across state lines to that state that everyone loves to hate. Besides dragging Hooleo around to their weird Massachusetts Avon parties and ‘Cold Water Challenges’, which were also big that year, Aaron and Greg decided to send Michael ransom notes.
After paying an unspecified ransom that has had him in therapy for years, Michael was able to bring Hooleo back home. For those that are unfamiliar with those plastic props, they have an opening in the bottom which is covered by a plug. The opening is intended to allow the owner to fill the owl with sand, weighing it down so it is not effected by high winds. Well, when he returned, it seems our Massachusetts friends decided to stick other things inside of Hooleo; and no, not that..Well, maybe not that. They are, after all, Red Sox fans so nothing is off the table. In reality, the two kidnappers filled Hooleo with pieces of memorabilia from his travels: bar coasters, patches, coins, etc. With that, the law enforcement ‘Flat Stanley’ was born.
Since that day, Hooleo has traveled he world, as far as Amsterdam, collecting artifacts, stickers, pins and signatures along the way. Women have kissed him and men have drank from his head.
He seems to be suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome, as he keeps gravitating back to the New England area, recently taking in some sights and some music.
Of all the things that BBO has accomplished over the years, Hooleo remains one of the most subtle bonding experiences that Michael has created. A simple piece of plastic has traveled all over the world, united departments, been in the hands of heroes and has even completed a Unity Tour.
He was even present for the first group ‘action’, as BBO members assembled in Franklin, NJ (Sussex) when the department/FOP 57 was having a battle with a councilman who decided that he was an anarchist and took to social media trashing law enforcement, both locally and nationally.
From the ‘Wild West’ of Jersey City to monuments from around the country, Hooleo has certainly made the rounds. Just as the school students did with ‘Flat Stanley’, Michael included a log book that accompanied Hooleo. As he traveled the world, his handlers would do short write-ups detailing the ‘situations’ he would fond himself in.
Each time he returned home, albeit for a short time, Hooleo returned five pounds heavier, stuffed with memorabilia from his travels. Before being sent back out for his next trip, his contents were emptied and have now created one hell of a concrete symbol of just how small this world really is.
With all the miles he has logged, Hooleo is winding down and aiming towards retirement. But fret not, Hooleo 2.0 and his female counterpart, Hoolett, will be hitting the road once again. You never know where these ‘dirt birds’ will show up. If you should see them, be sure to thank their ‘handler’ who has, no doubt, dedicated their life to serving their community. Also, be sure to grab a photo and sneak a kiss, from the bird that is!
*Please be sure to visit Hooleo’s Facebook page and post your sightings!!*