Kentucky troopers reunite with girl whose act of kindness 'means - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky troopers reunite with girl whose act of kindness 'means the world to us'

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KSP Trooper Eric Homan and KSP Trooper Pat Hamilton chat with Isabella Gregory, 5, during a visit to Louisville on Tuesday. (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) KSP Trooper Eric Homan and KSP Trooper Pat Hamilton chat with Isabella Gregory, 5, during a visit to Louisville on Tuesday. (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
KSP Troopers Pat Hamilton and Eric Homan took Isabella to the playground at the Big Four Bridge in Louisville on Tuesday. (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) KSP Troopers Pat Hamilton and Eric Homan took Isabella to the playground at the Big Four Bridge in Louisville on Tuesday. (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Left to right: Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Sgt. Chris Smith, KSP Trooper Chris Lee, KSP Trooper Eric Homan, KSP Trooper Joseph Boyce, KSP Det. Jeff Kelley, Isabella Gregory and KSP Trooper Pat Hamilton. (Not pictured: KSP Trooper Tony Duncan) Left to right: Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Sgt. Chris Smith, KSP Trooper Chris Lee, KSP Trooper Eric Homan, KSP Trooper Joseph Boyce, KSP Det. Jeff Kelley, Isabella Gregory and KSP Trooper Pat Hamilton. (Not pictured: KSP Trooper Tony Duncan)
Isabella Gregory, 5, gives KSP Trooper Pat Hamilton a big hug on Tuesday (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Isabella Gregory, 5, gives KSP Trooper Pat Hamilton a big hug on Tuesday (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
The KSP troopers and Isabella Gregory appeared on "Fox and Friends" Tuesday morning (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) The KSP troopers and Isabella Gregory appeared on "Fox and Friends" Tuesday morning (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was a happy reunion Tuesday for the 5-year-old Elizabethtown girl who has warmed hearts around the world with her act of kindness following the funeral of a fallen Kentucky State Police trooper.

Isabella-Marie Gregory hugged two Kentucky State Troopers this morning after they drove three hours from Ashland to Louisville to appear with her on Fox and Friends morning show. Afterwards, Trooper Pat Hamilton and Trooper Eric Homan spent a few hours with the little girl -- letting her ride in their patrol car, taking her to the park and buying her lunch at McDonald's.

Isabella first met Hamilton and Homan -- along with KSP troopers Tony Duncan, Chris Lee, Joseph Boyce, and Pat Hamilton, KSP detective Jeff Kelley and Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Sgt. Chris Smith -- on Sept. 18 following the funeral of slain KSP trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder.

"Because of the day we just had, I mean it's almost a tear jerker," Hamilton said. "And I kept my composure, but it's one of those things -- it makes us realize why we do what we do. Little girls like her, they deserve what we do. Her gesture, it just means the world to us." 

Isabella, along with her 7-year-old brother Braxton and mother Sarah Yockey, were among the thousands of people who stood along U.S. Highway 31 West in Radcliff for three hours during the procession from Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown to Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Fort Knox.

Later that day, Yockey took Isabella to McDonald's for ice cream during Braxton's football practice -- which happened to be the same place the troopers decided to stop to eat and to decompress after the funeral around 6:15 p.m. The troopers had left Ashland around 5:30 a.m. and aside from a breakfast sandwich -- none of them had eaten all day.

It was there where Isabella asked her mother if she could use her allowance money to treat the officers to ice cream. 

"They had just eaten there food and I wanted to give them some ice cream because their friend died," Isabella told WDRB News. "I wanted to try to make them feel better."

They then took a group photo and shared it on social media. It was spotted by a WDRB News reporter, who tracked down Homan and Yockey for a story that published and aired on Saturday, the day after the funeral.

The photo and story went viral and has been shared by news outlets across the world -- and has also prompted dozens phone calls and messages of support to the officers.

"I only assumed that the picture would just be shared with my close family friends on Facebook -- I wanted to share some of the encouragement we had received from Isabella," Homan said. "We had no idea it would been shared over 10,000 times. It's been unbelievable."

Homan said Isabella's act of kindness has helped turned a sad time into "something positive."

"It's turned into a real positive story and I think that's something we need these days," he said. "We appreciate her big heart and the kindness she showed us."

Yockey said Isabella had earned her allowance by folding laundry, doing dishes, helping with trash and cleaning her room.

"This was money she had earned that week and she spent it on someone else," Yockey said, stopping for a moment to take a breath. 

"It makes me feel that doing what I am doing as a single mom is showing through my daughter," she said. "There is a lot of negativity and there are kids being raised to fear law enforcement, whereas I have raised my kids to know that police officers are there to protect them and make sure they are OK."

Hamilton, who graduated from KSP in January, graduated with both Ponder and Eric Chrisman, another KSP trooper who was killed in the line of duty on June 23 in a car crash. He wears two memorial bracelets on his wrist in honor of his fallen brothers. 

Ponder, 31, a native of Rineyville, was shot and killed following a traffic stop Sept. 13 in southwestern Kentucky. He had initially pulled over a black Dodge Avenger driven by Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks of Florissant, Mo., for speeding on Interstate 24 near the 58 mile marker after 10 p.m. on Sept. 13.

A KSP spokesman said Ponder had been arranging for overnight lodging for the suspects fellow travelers, including two children, when suddenly, Johnson-Shanks took off.

Moments later, Johnson-Shanks stopped his vehicle and shot Ponder. After a short manhunt, Johnson-Shanks was also shot and killed by police when he refused to drop his weapon. 

Ponder, a Navy veteran, had been on the state police force less than a year.

Hamilton was Ponder was "one of those guys you always wanted to be around."

"In the academy, another trooper was going to be sent away from his family and Trooper Ponder actually switched posts and he took Mayfield so that the other trooper could be with his family," Hamilton recalled. "Ponder sacrificed living closer to where he was from for another person. He did that not only for us, but for the citizens of the Commonwealth. That's just the kind of person he was."

And in a few years -- the seven troopers may see a familiar face on the road. Isabella says she wants to go into law enforcement someday.

"I want to be a policeman when I grow up," she said.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

RELATED:

Lawmaker, father slain KSP trooper advocating for increased safety for state police

Three-hour-long procession honors fallen KSP Trooper

IMAGES: Thousands attend funeral for slain Ky. trooper Joseph Ponder

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