Safetyville Coordinator; Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office
Most people can recall at least one childhood hero who inspired them. Maybe it was a character in a favorite book or movie or someone in real life, like a teacher or a firefighter. Heroes can come from many walks of life, but their effect on us is usually universal in this way: they make us want to be better and do better.
Melanie LeBlanc certainly seems to have this same effect on the lives of those she reaches. As a deputy with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office for the past 18 years, she has been able to positively impact the lives of thousands of children through her work as a school resource officer, with the D.A.R.E. program, and in her current position as Safetyville Coordinator at the Bayou Country Children’s Museum in Thibodaux.
The Safetyville program is a special partnership between the sheriff’s office and the children’s museum. Through it, Deputy Mel, as she is fondly known, teaches daily lessons to children at the museum on a variety of topics related to staying safe in emergency situations. The partnership, in her words, “gives children the chance to see a police officer as a friend, someone who cares and wants to help them.”
“Deputy Mel’s superpower is that she makes you feel so comfortable,” says Marcus Lawson, Business and Development Manager at the museum. He says her nurturing ways are like those of a mother. “She’s everything that a child could want in someone to look up to.”
Deputy Mel brings this warmth and love of children to each lesson she teaches, whether it be a colorful puppet show for toddlers on the dangers of touching things that are hot or a more in-depth presentation on weather safety for school-age kids.
“Although some of the topics she tackles are very serious like how to call 911 or interacting with strangers, Deputy Mel creates a safe environment for both parents and children. The kids and families love Deputy Mel and we do too!” said Arianna Mace, the museum’s director.
LeBlanc says she has never viewed herself as a hero but says thinking back on the things she has done in her career has made her reconsider her definition of a hero.
She recalled a time when she was working with the D.A.R.E. program, teaching kids about calling 9-1-1, and one of her students, a 5-year-old girl, found her mom unconscious and called 9-1-1, which ended up saving her life. When asked how she knew what to do, the little girl said, “Deputy Mel taught me what to do.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” says LeBlanc, reflecting on the value of what she does. A hero doesn’t always have to be that person we naturally think of who goes out on the front lines of an emergency. It can be someone like herself in the background, empowering children with information that could one day save lives. POV