Known by millions for his portrayal of Officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello on the show “CHiPs,” Estrada has become a spokesman for Safe Surfin’, an organization aimed at ensuring children stay safe on the Internet.
Safe Surfin’ has teamed up with Moose International in its crusade against Internet predators.
Estrada, who is filming a documentary for Safe Surfin’, spent nearly two hours at the Moose Lodge greeting, talking to and taking pictures with members, law enforcement agents and other guests.
Before meeting and signing autographs for the steady line of people in attendance, Estrada spoke to the crowd about his work with Safe Surfin’ to keep children safe when they’re online.
“(The Internet) can be a dangerous place,” Estrada said. Horrible things have happened to children “all because they get friendly with someone they don’t know on the Internet.”
In some cases, children have been shipped into sex trades in other countries, he said.
Estrada said he wanted to use his fame for a good cause, but he wanted to do more than preach about the issue.
“I figured I could do more good with my celebrity,” said Estrada, who is a reserve officer with the Bedford County, Va., Sheriff’s Office. “I didn’t want to be an actor with a big mouth.”
As part of his work with the sheriff’s office in Virginia, Estrada is on the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, where he often poses as a minor in chat rooms.
But Estrada said he doesn’t want to deter young people from using the Internet; he said just wants them to be safe when they use it.
“We’d love to get Internet safety education put in schools,” Estrada said, noting that Safe Surfin’ has Internet safety tools they can provide to schools. “It’s no charge. We give the software away for free.”
Moose members packed the lodge in order to get photos with the celebrity and hear what he had to say.
Ruth Sims said Estrada makes it easier for parents who might not talk to their children about the dangers of getting online.
“I love it that he’s doing what he’s doing for the children,” Sims said. “A lot of parents don’t have time to explain these things with their children.”
Christie DeLoach, who hugged and took pictures with Estrada, said this was her second time in two days meeting the actor.
“He was at Moose Haven in Orange Park yesterday,” she said. “All of the Moose lodges are helping fund the program he’s doing.”
Estrada was in South Florida in Venice this weekend and will be in Orlando later this week.
Estrada said he’s filming the Safe Surfin’ documentary over the course of 18 months.
Moose member Valerie French said she would always remember him from his work as Ponch.