Most race-car drivers wouldn't be revved up by the idea of 400 kids' fingerprints all over their cars.
But those race-car drivers aren't Hellam Township Police Sgt. Drew Heistand, who drives an American Racing Drivers Club midget car.
In 2011, he was ARDC champion, according to dedicated fan and Wrightsville Elementary School principal Don Gillett. Heistand has 10 career wins, according to the ARDC website.
Together, the officer and the principal came up with an idea to educate Wrightsville Elementary's 400 students about vehicle and bicycle safety, while at the same time making Heistand's car more colorful.
On Thursday morning, Heistand and township Officers Todd McFadden and Doug Pollock brought his midget car to the school, where each of the 400 students got to dip a thumb into paint and leave a print on the car.
Officers then used markers to write students' names above their thumbprints.
Safety stressed: But before the kids could leave their marks, Heistand gave them a 10-minute presentation on the importance of always wearing seat belts and bicycle helmets that fit properly.
When kids are riding in a car and see a police officer, they should give the officer a "thumb's up" if everyone in the car is buckled up, Heistand told the students.
They had to promise to buckle up and wear helmets when riding bikes and skateboards in order to put their thumbprints on the car. (Heistand said the paint will eventually wear off.)
First-grader Jessica Rose, 7, chose a shade of one of her favorite colors.
"I used sort of like a light purple," she said.
Jessica said she always wears her seat belt, and will give officers a thumb's up when she sees them on the road.
She said decorating the midget race car was fun. She sometimes enjoys watching races on TV with her father.
"Because my dad has a Corvette, and he raced it once," Jessica said.
Too white: Heistand said the idea for Thursday's presentation came to him while being teased by Gillett.
"He was joking about my car being so white," the sergeant said. "He was making fun of it."
Heistand next races his midget ARDC car Friday at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg.
"The last time we raced there, I won," he said. Heistand took second place in the three races before that, he said.
And if he wins again Friday, Wrightsville Elementary students are in for another treat.
"I'll shave my mustache and my head," Gillett said. "And the kids can pick out a costume for me to wear."
Choices include a gorilla suit and Sesame Street's Elmo.
"Last year I was mayor of Munchkin Land," said Gillett, who's been rocking his 'stache since 1975. "We're game for anything around here. The kids have a good time."
More chances: If Heistand doesn't win Friday, Gillett said he'll give the sergeant two more chances, for the sake of the students.
If Heistand wins his June 5 race at Grandview Speedway in Berks County, the principal said he will shave his mustache but not his head, and also wear a student-chosen costume.
Assuming the sergeant doesn't place first there but does win the June 9 race at Port Royal Speedway in Juniata County, Gillett will keep all his hair but still wear a costume, he said.
Connecting: Hellam Township Police Chief Mark Sowers said his department tries to find ways to connect with local kids of all ages.
He uses German shepherd Nada, his K-9 drug-detection dog, to spark the interest of middle schoolers.
And hopefully by the end of this summer, the department's 1996 Chevrolet Camaro will be ready for high school presentations, Sowers said.
"It's hard to hold their attention," he said of high schoolers, but suspects the rebuilt Camaro will do the trick.
Officers are customizing the car with help from York County School of Technology students, and all the work has been done through donations, Sowers said.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at email@example.com, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.