Tybee Police officer surprises special needs man with Christmas gift


TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – A partnership between Tybee Island Police Department (TIPD) and the Coastal Mermaid and Pirate Club started as a way to improve relations between officers and adults with special needs.

A video on social media spread when another officer captured the moment Sergeant Walter Hattrich surprised his best friend — Robert Ridge — with a new tricycle.

In the video, Sgt. Hattrich covers Ridge’s eyes and guides him into a hallway where a Christmas surprise is waiting. When Ridge sees the present, he bursts into tears and the two men hug.

“You don’t have to ride my bike anymore!” says Sgt. Hattrich during their emotional embrace. “That’s all yours.”

When Ridge — who most call Bob-o — needed a bike to ride throughout the island, Sgt. Hattrich gave him an orange cruiser to ride and a small trailer to haul around his belongings. Eventually, after thousands of trips to work and around town, Ridge wore out the bike.

That’s when Sgt. Hattrich says he got the idea for a Christmas present. He searched everywhere for a bike that would meet Ridge’s needs.

Sgt. Hattrich says he found one in Florida, drove there and paid for the tricycle with his own money. “It’s just me giving my friend a Christmas present. And that’s really all it is,” he said.

Obviously, the Tybee Police sergeant is humble, despite going the extra mile to help his friend. Ridge tells News 3 he was emotional, but not surprised to get the gift because of how close they are.

“Bob-o is one of my best friends,” said Sgt. Hattrich. “He allows me to be a part of his life. Not me allowing him to be a part of my life. That’s why I did what I did. That’s all.”‘

Ridge’s new tricycle has all the bells and whistles, including reflectors, a front light and, of course, three wheels, which make it easier for Ridge to get around.

“It’s a little easier for Bob-o because he rides so much. If he gets a little tired, it’s just a little easier for him to keep peddling,” said Sgt. Hattrich.

Ridge says he plans to use the bike to get around better on the island and to get to his job at Tybee Island’s popular restaurant, Huck-A-Poo’s.

“Bob-o’s heart is huge. It’s massive,” said Sgt. Hattrich. “I do nice things here and there. All Bob-o does is nice things.”

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