GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Three local kids got a worthwhile lesson from township police Monday — that sometimes, doing the right thing pays.

Ricky Cote, 13, and his brother, Robby, 6, and 9-year-old sister, Bella, found $180 in cash this past May 31, just lying in the parking lot at the Historic Smithville Shops. But, instead of going on a shopping spree, the kids were encouraged by their father, Rick Cote, to turn the money over to police.

Now that six months has passed, New Jersey state statute allows for that found money to be turned over to the Cote kids, Acting Capt. Donna Higbee said. On Monday, the kids were rewarded for doing the right thing with $100 each, as well as a giant lollipop, and some gift cards to nearby restaurants.

“Loose cash lying in the parking lot, not in a wallet or purse, no identification and no one was standing around,” Higbee said during the presentation. “Being the responsible parent and trying to do the right thing, Mr. Cote immediately crushed their excitement and told them they had to turn it in to the police department.”

The extra cash was given to the children thanks to a collection from local police officers, as well as a $60 anonymous donation from a local resident.

“It’s been a long six months for them, they’ve called a couple times asking when the six months would be,” Higbee said. She said that the police department wanted to show the children how much they appreciated their honesty and integrity.

The presentation was a complete surprise to the entire family, Rick Cote said.

“I didn’t know it was going to be like this,” he said after the presentation. “I just wanted them to do the right thing, and it paid off.”

Ricky Cote said he plans to use the money to buy some new wheels for his bike, while Robby has been eyeing up some new video games and Bella, a few toys.

But, Robby said he was most excited about the giant lollipop, and his eyes lit up when it was handed to him.

“I’m never going to finish that lollipop, it’s bigger than my head,” he said.

The children were also sworn in as junior police officers at the presentation by Chief Patrick Moran, and promised to help others, tell the truth, and strive to be upstanding members of the community.

“Not everybody is going to be turning in money they find lying in a parking lot,” Moran said. He added that while Galloway Township is a large town, the police department strives to maintain a community atmosphere, which was why the department came together for the Cote family.

Contact Christie Rotondo:

609-272-7275