Cheryl Polarek's life is dedicated to helping others. Every day is a day spent helping those with the full services of the law behind her. Families, children and more have felt the benefit of her service, a daily passion that started from a young age.
"I was born and raised in Valpo," says Polarek. "I ended up going to IU Bloomington and then went to Creighton University to study law."
While leaving Indiana and Valparaiso to pursue her education, Polarek knew that Valparaiso would be the place she returned to, and after finishing her education, she returned to her hometown.
"I always knew I'd come back here," says Polarek. "I came back to have a family here. Valparaiso is safe, we have great schools and there is plenty of culture here. It's so good for families to grow up here."
After Polarek returned to Valparaiso, she began working at a private practice before eventually obtaining her current job at the Valparaiso prosecutor's office.
"I always knew I'd be a prosecutor," says Polarek. "I actually started sending resumes to the prosecutor's office while I was still at Creighton. I always knew being a prosecutor is what I wanted to do even while I was at my university."
Polarek continued to serve the Valparaiso community and gain a positive reputation through her services and professionalism. It was through this strong dedication to her career and community that Polarek would be introduced to another integral part of her life, the loveable four-legged friend known as Tony the Courthouse Dog.
"I really wanted to find something better for kids," says Polarek. "I had seen a brochure about courthouse dogs who were put here to help victims, especially young victims or witnesses to a crime. I fell in love with this idea and knew that this is what I had to do."
The application process to obtain Tony was a long process taking 2 and a half years. This was partially due to Tony being specifically trained for the courthouse and its surrounding environment.
"He was trained to be able to work in our environment down to very specific things since his birth," says Polarek. "For example, he was trained to ride in the elevator. He was trained to not react to the nearby fire house. This all came from when he was younger and they noticed how much he loved children and felt this would be a great fit for him to help the young victims who have been traumatized."
Polarek credits Tony for his dedication to his job and the positive impact he has made on dozens of lives. For the clients she serves as well as other staff members of the courthouse, Tony is a beacon of light that illuminates every day.
"I wasn't initially sure how people would act, but he's become a very well-liked part of the courthouse," says Polarek. "Everyone knows him. People who work here come up to him when they're having a bad day and we rarely see any kind of fear from kids. They have gone through a bad process and may have many bad memories but he's here to make any part he can better. Kids have gotten through the tough times because of him."
For both Polarek and Tony, they have found a way to touch the lives of those they serve. It's a career that Polarek loves and would never consider leaving.
"I can't leave here I'm a career prosecutor," says Polarek. "No amount of money can take me away from here, I love being able to give back to the community and I love the positive impact that myself and Tony can make on even the worst situations that people can experience."
For more information on courthouse dogs, click here.
For more information on Cheryl and Tony, click here.