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Locked up for a good cause

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WAITING GAME: Badry talks to Mitchell about who the checks can be made out to, as he waits on enough money to be raised for his bail.
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SURPRISE: Mark Siblisk stands to get his mug shot taken to upload to Facebook while Chief of Police Michael Meeks takes a video. Siblisk was the only participant who didn't know he was going to be arrested for the fundraiser, so he said he was pretty surprised to be there.
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WANTED: Mitchell made framed "wanted" posters for the participants, which sat on tables around the cell in City Hall.
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STILL SMILING: Greg Badry, Mark Hall and Cara Dawalt sit in the City Hall cell to wait on money to be raised for their bail. Officer Mitchell said everybody has a good time with the fundraiser.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

The Peru Police Department kicked off the second JailBreak fundraiser yesterday, chasing down participants from all over the county to lock them away in their City Hall cells and wait on the money needed to get them out.

Officer Lee Mitchell took on the task of organizing the fundraiser, which included creating “Wanted” posters for the participants to go along with their made-up characters for the day of arrests. He said the police department promoted the characters on Facebook and allowed the participants to do the same, to help raise money and bail them out of jail.

Each participant had an initial $200 bond that the community could either donate toward to get them out of jail, or they could pay against the bond to keep them in longer.

Mitchell said last year the fundraiser went toward starting up the Honor Guard at the police department, after around $12,000 was raised.

This year he said the money will be split 50-50 between the Honor Guard fund and the Christmas for Kids program, which Mitchell said provides children who might not get much for Christmas with an opportunity to shop for clothes and a few toys.

They didn’t set out with a monetary goal this year, he said, but they appreciated any help they could get.

After a day full of arrests, re-arrests and bailing out of jail, Mitchell said the department was able to raise around $11,000 on hand, and anticipates around $3,000-4,000 more in IOU’s that people were waiting on from various places.

Mitchell said the fundraiser has collected a strong following and a lot of support. Throughout the day, the officers kept everyone updated on Facebook with videos of the arrests and mugshots of those who had been caught.

Mitchell said some people follow the videos and pictures and when they see a familiar face, they’ll come to City Hall to see it all in person.

“The community really seems to enjoy following these goofy videos on Facebook, so they keep up with it, people come in based on the videos and they see somebody that they know has been arrested,” he said. “and they either come in and help out or they come in and don’t help them out by putting money against them.”

Early in the morning, Cara Dawalt, Greg Badry, Mark Hall and Pepper Foreman were already sitting in the cell waiting to be bailed out. In the words of Hall, they were all “first time offenders,” except for Dawalt who had been arrested the year before.

“I can’t seem to stay out of trouble,” she said with a laugh.

While most of the participants signed up ahead of time and awaited their time of arrest, one participant got a bit of a surprise when a couple of police officers showed up.

Unbeknown to Mark Siblisk, Mitchell said Siblisk’s family had set him up to be the “mystery person” for the fundraiser, so he ended up being the only participant who didn’t know what was coming and had to start raising money for his bond from scratch.

Hall said he decided to participate this year because the Christmas for Kids program is important to him and he also wanted to be able to help support the Honor Guard. Badry echoed that and said it’s all a good cause that he wanted to be a part of.

Dawalt said she had been arrested at 8:30 a.m. and after being there for about an hour, she had collected $85 and was hopeful to reach the $200 soon and be on her way.

“We’ve had a wonderful response, we’ve had a really good time with the characters obviously and the videos. Lee Mitchell has gone above and beyond with this fundraiser,” she said.

With the second year under their belt, Mitchell said the fundraiser has started to become a bit of a tradition for Peru.

“We weren’t really sure we were going to do it again after last year and then people immediately after last year were saying ‘I’d love to do it next year,’” he said. “We kept getting more and more interest so we waited a year and we’re here again.”

By the end of it all, Mitchell said about 40 people had participated in the fundraiser, some of which weren’t able to be there the day of, so they were “arrested” prior to the eventful day.

Looking forward, Mitchell said he can’t say with 100 percent certainty that they’ll do the fundraiser again next year, but he expects that they will. He said everyone had a great time and some are already talking about amping up their characters and scenes for next year.

Mitchell said the department appreciates everyone’s support and participation.