BELLEVILLE — Walking hand-in-hand, students joined business leaders and community members during the annual Walk for Character around downtown on Friday morning.
The crowd gathered at City Hall and walked down Main Street to the garden at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
Belleville District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier talked to the young students in attendance about the late O'Fallon Police Chief John Betten. Betten died at his home Sunday after a four-year battle with cancer.
"He was role model for so many people," Dosier said.
A memorial service for Betten will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the O'Fallon Township High School.
Betten exemplified every aspect of having good character including self-discipline, courage, integrity, trustworthiness, responsibility and being caring, according to Dosier.
"The thing that stood out for me about Chief Betten is the respect he showed to others," he said, "because of that, people respected him."
Dosier asked the students from Belleville School District 118 to return to their elementary schools -- Henry Raab, Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Westhaven -- and tell fellow students about Betten.
"What I want you to remember most about him is the character he showed every day," Dosier said, "whether somebody was watching him or not watching him."
District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said the annual character walk hosted by the city and the BASIC (Belleville Achieves Strength in Character) Initiative is a symbol to show "our unity and support for building a community strong with character."
Jim Schneider, with the city of Belleville, said the walk is symbolic and "stands for a community of character, stands for being for each other (and) stands for working for each other instead of against each other." Schneider is the city's director of human resources, training and community development.
Amanda Guinn, program director for Belleville AmeriCorps, told students in order to have good character they have to practice and work together. "We practice to get strong and be experienced with our character," Guinn said. "We practice. Even as adults, we practice every day."
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.