Highland Park High School junior Kyle Tananbaum donated $1,100 to the town of Highland Park during the Oct. 24 town council meeting. The money will help fund the town’s 2017 National Night Out festivities. Tananbaum’s gesture left public information officer Lt. Lance Koppa momentarily speechless.
“I’ve known Kyle for a long time,” Koppa said. “I wasn’t expecting to talk, and I got a little emotional up there.”
Koppa met Tananbaum during his first year in Highland Park, when Tananbaum’s mother arranged for a fire truck to come by for his birthday party. Koppa said the random encounter made a lasting impression.
“That’s when I really started appreciating community service, and realizing what kind of impact I could have,” Koppa said.
As a young kid, Tananbaum often wore a small fireman’s outfit, leading Koppa to nickname him “Firefighter Kyle.” The two remained friends throughout Tananbaum’s childhood.
“He’s a great guy, and he’s really easy to look up to,” Tananbaum said.
Tananbaum has been involved in scouting since he was in first grade. As he began to consider Eagle Scout projects last year, he thought about doing something to help the fire department. He spoke with Koppa, and learned the department was looking for ways to increase community engagement and better explain the department’s mission.
“A lot of people don’t know that firefighters are also police officers and emergency medical technicians,” Tananbaum said.
Tananbaum created a presentation to tell the department’s story. He recruited volunteers to help spread the word, and worked with Koppa and others to learn more about the interworkings of the departments.
“I wanted to share the interest I had in the DPS with other kids,” Tananbaum said.
He added that it’s important for kids and adults alike to think of the police as friends and members of the community.
“There are definitely underlying stereotypes out there,” Tananbaum said. “After the Dallas shootings in July, this seemed like a great time for the presentation.”
Around 55 people turned out for Kyle’s presentation at Town Hall, which began with a moment of silence in honor of the shooting victims and fallen SMU police officer Mark McCullers. Afterwards, Tananbaum led the audience on a tour of town hall and the fire station.
According to Koppa, the town plans to find other ways to utilize his presentation in the future.
In preparation for the project, Tananbaum solicited donations so he could provide officers and the audience food and refreshments. He was hoping to raise $150, but ended up getting more than eight times that amount. Some of the excess will be used to provide meals to all three DPS shifts. The rest was included in the check presented to town council last month.
“It’s kind of cool that I can give back through community service now after they gave to me when I was a little kid,” Tananbaum said.
Tananbaum runs track for HPHS and heads up a March Madness Club that will soon be sponsoring a penny drive for less fortunate kids. He also runs an online wholesale shoe business that has grossed over $10,000 in sales.
Upon graduation, Tananbaum plans to attend college and possibly focus on business. He also intends to continue finding ways to help others.
“I want to make an impact through public works or philanthropy,” Tananbaum said. “I want to continue giving back to the community and to the less fortunate either through money or through programs where I can analyze growth and help other people.”