Haley Stroud doesn’t have a family member in law enforcement, but she says she feels the force's family bond.
Stroud, a 19-year-old Fort Mill native, can’t join a local law enforcement agency until she’s 21. But she’s already part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s cadet training program.
"I have a passion for going into law enforcement,” Stroud said. “It's just something I’ve always wanted to do."
She attended Det. Mike Doty’s funeral in January, after he was fatally shot while responding with a SWAT team to a domestic violence call in York County.
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After Doty’s death, and the shooting death of Karson Whitesell in what police say was a “random” killing at the Peach Stand in Fort Mill, Stroud decided to do something for people who work in law enforcement.
Whitesell’s mom, Debbie, started a non-profit, Karson’s Kompassion Project. In May, the non-profit collected stuffed toy animals for local law enforcement agencies. The toys will go to children the agencies encounter during calls.
Stroud, who works with the Anne Springs Close Greenway and an after school program in her home town, wanted to get kids involved.
“The toy drive for me is kind of like a bond to help the children get closer to first responders,” Stroud said.
York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said his office responds to many calls that can be traumatizing for the children, and stuffed animals can be a good way for deputies to make the children more comfortable.
“It shows a spirit of goodwill from the officer’s standpoint,” he said. “As well as, we all know what stuffed animals mean to children – a sense of security and belonging.”
Stroud said she and students through the Fort Mill School District collected about 400 stuffed animals, which she passed on to Tolson on Monday.
“I thought it was cool for the kids to get involved too, to say they helped out and gave to those in need,” Stroud said.
And she said the kids were excited to help. She said several brought in bags filled with stuffed toys.
Tolson said he is grateful to the entire York County community for supporting his office after the January shootings.
“It’s been very tremendous, very uplifting,” Tolson said.
During Doty’s funeral, Stroud said she could feel the "brother-sister bond" between officers in all the law enforcement agencies present. And she wants to join.
Her mom, Tina Stroud, said it’s all she talks about.
“I'm very proud of her,” Tina Stroud said. “Of course I'd be worried too, it's natural. But I'm very proud of her. She's worked hard to get where she is right now.”
For Stroud, going into law enforcement really means serving her community.
“This is the drive to do well for your community, and provide safety, and experience a challenging and exciting job at the same time,” Tolson said. “It’s refreshing to know that there are young people out there who have the drive to serve, and serve the public.”