Canyon Laker honors fallen police officers

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Melissa Cayette holds one of the 20 cross frames she made for the families of fallen officers. Photo provided by Melissa Cayette

The Cayette family knows personally what a difference a “supportive village,” such as Canyon Lake, can make in the life of a police officer and his or her family. Each day, as Officer Rodginald Cayette performs his duties for the Los Angeles Police Department, he knows that a crisis can be only a moment away. However, at that same time, he realizes that he and his family are supported by Canyon Lake citizens no matter what the situation may be.

Melissa Cayette, wife of Officer Cayette, wanted to discover a way to share this support with other first responders and families at their time of greatest need.

This past New Year’s Eve, as Melissa was praying for a police officer’s family in Colorado, she glanced at a cross that she had fashioned out of a picture frame and knew how she would personally make a difference in the life of this grieving family. She created and sent a cross frame specially designed for the young wife and two children to give them a sense of support and hope.

Out of that meaningful gesture, “Cross Frames for Fallen Officers” was conceived.

Melissa knows that she had taken on a huge task. In 2017 alone, 125 police officers died on duty, but this did not deter her efforts. As of this year, May 1, Melissa has made 20 cross frames for the families and departments in which the fallen officers had served.

For several years, Melissa had been searching for a means to honor the memories of those officers who had made the ultimate sacrifice, losing his or her life while defending others. Melissa shares her thoughts: “I have been in prayer for a long time about how to honor all of the men and women in blue who have died protecting our cities. It was and is personal whenever an officer dies. I know it could very well be our family. As a police wife, you play that scenario over and over again. You don’t dwell on it, but you do prepare for it.”

The Cayette family moved to Canyon Lake two years ago. They could have chosen to live anywhere within the Los Angeles area, but they were drawn to Canyon Lake because they desired a place in which their entire family could relax and feel safe.

Along with their four children, Payton, Aspen, Bailee and Haeven, the Cayette family enjoy the many amenities of Canyon Lake and the surrounding areas. They kayak, fish, swim, paddle board, work out, play board games and ping pong. Because Melissa homeschools her children, they are also able to take advantage of the many museums and historical sites in the Inland Empire along with nearby zoos and amusement parks.

The family is very enthusiastic regarding taking part in many of the festivities that are provided by the various groups in Canyon Lake. They want to do it all.

But the element of Canyon Lake that they hold most dear is the support that the community has given to them as a family of a first responder. The life of a first responder is stressful; however, Officer Cayette has found Canyon Lake and its citizens to be a community that is welcoming to police and a place where he can relax from the pressures of his position.

The University of Buffalo recently completed a study which discovered that officers over age 40 had a higher 10-year risk of a coronary event compared to average national standards; 72 percent of female officers and 43 percent of male officers had higher-than-recommended cholesterol levels; and police officers as a group had higher-than-average pulse rates and diastolic blood pressure.

But in Canyon Lake, it’s different. “We love pointing out all the homes that are lit up with blue lights,” said Melissa. “We want people to know how very much that means to us police families.”

Melissa is reaching out to her Canyon Lake family to help her with this beneficial project.  It is Melissa’s desire to reach out to the families of fallen officers and their departments by gifting each of them with one of her cross frames. While she has already made and donated numerous cross frames, the actual need is far from being met.

The number of officers who have fallen in the line of duty for this year is well over 50. Realizing this, Melissa is asking Canyon Lake residents to consider donating used or new picture frames to her project. Sizes preferred are 8×10, 5×7, and 4×6 frames. The color or material of the frame does not matter. Anyone having frames that they would like to donate can contact Melissa at memerodge@yahoo.com.

Personally, Melissa has seen this change her own life in positive ways. “I am so proud of my husband and my passion for the police has intensified over the past couple of years with all of the controversy surrounding police,” she said. “I found myself getting angry, hurt, and very protective. I decided to turn my pain, sadness and disappointment into a purpose which praises God for our heroes. With this, my cross frames turned my tears into blessings.”

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Pat Van Dyke