K-9 Jackson fundraiser, Waukesha siblings donate protective vest

Two Waukesha siblings asked for donations for their birthdays to raise money for a protective vest for Waukesha County Sheriff's K-9 Jackson.

The K-9 officer was named after Jackson Sparks, 8, who lost his life in the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack.

"A lot of the kids' friends, families were at that parade tragedy," said Alana Sullivan, mother. "Once we found out it was Jackson, we thought it would be important for the kids to see a little bit of good to come out of such a tragedy."

Finley, 11, and Aislin, 9, raised the money for "Wisconsin Vest-A-Dog."

K-9 Jackson fundraiser, Waukesha siblings donate protective vest (PHOTOS: Waukesha County Sheriff's Department)

"We are giving a vest, a bulletproof vest, to Jackson, the service dog named after Jackson Sparks," said Finley, a sixth-grader. "Instead of presents, since we figured that we don’t really need them anymore, we can give back to the people who do so much for us, police, veterans, first responders.  They give their lives to us in protecting our community, our country, and we figured the best gift we could give is possible life to another creature. As shown with the Waukesha parade, that’s something that, when it’s gone, you can’t get it back."

The siblings had a joint birthday party and accepted donations for the vest.

"This year, we had this big tub, and we put on it what we were doing," said Aislin Sullivan, a third-grader. "All of the people who were invited were allowed to put money into it instead of giving us birthday presents, which we do every year, but we decided to do police dogs this year, and we just happened to raise enough to get a vest for Jackson."

Jackson Sparks

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K-9 Jackson joined the force in August 2022. Jackson Sparks' family was there when it was announced the K-9 would be named after the little boy who died after the Christmas parade attack.

On Jan. 31, K-9 Jackson was actually hurt while on duty, so this vest is a critical donation.

Jackson is the first K-9 partner for Deputy Patrick Maylen. The vest donation meant a great deal to both.

"He's my partner, my best friend. We’re all protected as officers with our vests, so it’s comforting to know he has one, as well, to be just as safe as I am," said Deputy Maylen.

Deputy Maylen said the vest he had been using before this was a hand-me-down.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Department K-9 Jackson

"Us as police officers, we don’t wear expired vests. We get new ones, so it’s only fair for Jackson to get a new one, as well," said Deputy Maylen.

Deputy Maylen said the new vest is custom for Jackson, and he'll be able to wear it 24/7 regardless of the weather conditions to keep him safe on the job.

"It’s bullet resistant, so in an instance he’s needed for protection like that, the protection is there like our vests, as well," said Deputy Maylen.

He called the actions of the Sullivan siblings "selfless."

"They didn’t have to do this," said Deputy Maylen. "They reached out to us. To have the kids reach out to us, it’s comforting to know that that’s our future generation."

Waukesha County Sheriff's Department K-9 Jackson

"They’re huge supporters of military, fire, police," said Alana Sullivan, mom. "They just want to always give back to the ones that keep us safe and risk their lives every day. They don’t need any more gifts. They decide that there’s something better to do, and they’ll say well, hopefully, it will inspire another kid to give their birthday to someone else."

The siblings said they're grateful to everyone who donated to the cause.

"Even just $5 still makes a big difference," said Aislin Sullivan.

K-9 Jackson was trained at the same facility the Sullivan family dog was trained at, and both dogs are Dutch Shepherds. The family learned this after choosing to raise money for the vest. 

The Sullivan siblings combine their winter birthdays into a one-day summer celebration where they can raise money for an organization of their choosing. This year, their third year doing so, they raised nearly $1,000 to help purchase the vest.