The last time Kentucky State Police Trooper Ty Robinson saw the shy girl she lay in a hospital bed in critical condition, drawn against agonizing pain. He gently subdued the child.
Robinson also delivered a gray-uniformed trooper teddy that day, a constant companion to make a long recovery bearable.
The stuffed toy still sits on Pamela Salyers’ bed — a reminder of Ashland’s Post 14’s care and concern.
“She says it protects her,” said the 6-year-old’s mother, Linda Salyers, 34. The Olive Hill girl was one of 41 children enjoying the annual Shop With a Trooper event Sunday afternoon at Walmart in Cannonsburg. Each bought $150 worth of children’s gifts. But, for Robinson, it’s more than that.
In September, the girl was enjoying a warm afternoon. Her feet dangled outside the open front door of her family’s mobile home. But tragedy struck seconds later. A car smashed into the home and hit the girl, splintering her right leg. Robinson and Sgt. Erik Kouns arrived quickly. Robinson knew with the substantial blood loss, time wasn’t on the girl’s side.
She was quickly transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital, where Kouns and Robinson paid a visit. The girl cried out in her sleep.
“Her mom thought she’d lose her leg at the time and she’d never make it home for Christmas. Now look at her. It’s good to see her walking again. She’s a miracle child, just awesome,” Robinson said, glancing at a leg defaced by disaster, scarred by skin grafting and other surgical treatment.
In the toy department, the girl is bolstered by a miniature walker covered in stickers. She spent more than five weeks in the hospital, where doctors removed almost an inch of her leg. She’s healing from multiple injuries; steel plates fasten fragmented bones. Physical therapy is hard.
Robinson helped the girl wearing a Hello Kitty fushia dress get an Easy Bake Oven from a tall shelf. She promised to make the state police hero cupcakes when she’s well enough.
There are baby dolls, footballs and a princess castle in the shopping cart.
“They’re just good people,” Mrs. Salyers said of the troopers. “I’m glad they were there to help her through.”
Mrs. Salyers lost her husband in a Grayson car acccident in 2009.
As for the troopers, it’s service above self. They serve chicken and snacks to the children at the Walmart-catered lunch.
Eric Zimmerman-Green, 11, is curious about Trooper Nathan Carter, and asks questions about serving and protecting, helping others in times of stress.
“He’s fun. He’s a hero. He saves people’s lives. He arrests people,” declared the Lloyd boy. “I always wanted to be a trooper. I will be someday.”
Jai Highley, 10, is buying a new bike with Capt. James Stephens. The Ashland boy’s bicycle was stolen and later discovered in a local pawn shop. His father bought it back for $35, and it was ripped off a second time. The boy is happy about the new wheels, but pointed out Christmas isn’t about receiving.
“It’s about celebrating God’s birthday,” he said. “These are brave people. They can really get hurt taking people in.”
Stephens said mingling with law enforcement is good for children, and the participation of the troopers is a testament to KSP. Many of the men and women volunteered on their day off, and some had to report to evening shift after the event.
“We give around the clock, 365 days a year. This is just a small opportunity for us to give back to the community even more,” Stephens said. “To see these smiles, it’s amazing.”
KSP Trooper First Class Mike Murriell is thankful for the region’s efforts in Shop With a Trooper. Donors purchase T-shirts, offer funds and purchase raffle tickets on a specially painted, KSP Power Wheels toy car (this year won by Greenup’s Neil Wright).
The post’s public affairs officer thanked Walmart for the refreshments, the meal and stuffed stockings; Ashland Town Center for treating tots to a free visit with Saint Nick and a train ride around the mall; and Orange Leaf for the complimentary cup of frozen yogurt for each child.
“This event is one of the greatest things Kentucky State Police is involved in,” said Murriell, watching families climb into train cars, with enthusiastic troopers at the ready.
“These are kids we might interact with on a normal day at work,” he said. “They don’t typically get to see us in this light.”