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Henderson County's K-9 units have a new park to train at thanks to donations from the community and elbow grease from local students.

The grand opening was held Thursday for the Henderson County Sheriff's Office K-9 Agility Training Park, located behind the detention center. Funding for the materials was achieved through donations raised by the nonprofit Stand T.A.L.L. and was constructed by carpentry students at North Henderson High. The park consists of many basic wooden structures designed to teach dogs how to walk on and jump over various obstacles. One feature is a balance beam for K-9 units to walk along. There are also several obstacles that simulate a wall or fence for K-9s to jump over.

K-9 Officer Robert Pace said the agility training is vital for the dogs.

'If we don't get them ready for it now, then when the time comes that we need the dog to do his job, he's going to shut down,' said Pace. 'He's going to come to that obstacle and say 'I don't know what this is; I'm not going to go over it.' And we're going to be finished. I can't thank Stand T.A.L.L. and these students enough for what they've done for us.'

The Sheriff's Office held demonstrations for the media Thursday. While K-9 Ranger leaped over the walls with no issue, he struggled a bit on the balance beam. Pace said that obstacle is one of the hardest things they ask the dogs to do.

'It takes a lot of work to convince the dogs they're actually safe on this if they just trust us,' said Pace.

Training was previously done at city and county locations, with no permanent structure or areadesigned for K-9s and their handlers.The park will be open for the Hendersonville Police Department and other K-9 law enforcement agencies to use.

Stand T.A.L.L. President Ron Kauffman said that several months ago, the organization's vice president, Sharon Hanson, asked Pace what he thought would be most helpful to the K-9 corp. Pace said it would be great to have a dedicated K-9 park.

'Ms. Hanson saw an opportunity to satisfy a need within the Sheriff's K-9 corp and the idea was discussed with (Sheriff's Office) leadership,' said Kauffman. 'While they initially had not decided on a location, the project was deemed to be worthwhile and important, so we got to work.'

In addition to the park, Stand T.A.L.L. presented the Sheriff's Office with a $10,000 donation for the purchase and training of a new multi-purpose K-9.

StandT.A.L.L. also presented Pace with a plaque with the names of major donors for the K-9, which will be on display in the entry hall of the Sheriff's Office.

'We appreciate the tremendous and ongoing support the (Sheriff's Office) has received over the past years from Stand T.A.L.L.,' Sheriff Lowell Griffin said in a news release. 'This new facility and the soon-to-be acquired new K-9 will be a lasting tribute to their hard work and support.'- Andrew Mundhenk, Times News

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 As you may know, STAND T.A.L.L. is raising money to honor our commitment to the Henderson County Sheriff's Office to fund the purchase and training of the HCSO new K-9 dog. The commitment we made is for $10,000.

An anonymous donor has stepped up with a challenge pledge to match $5000 in donations from others specifically for the K-9 fundraiser, requiring us to first raise $5000 before s/he will match that amount.

Please help us meet our goal by contributing generously so we reach our $5000 target and can make this donation in the next few weeks to the K-9 corp of the Sheriff's Office. Donate here: https://www.paypal.me/thankacop

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STAND T.A.L.L. – Thank A Local Lawman, through the generosity of Firehouse Subs and its owner, Monte Sims, recently provided a “Thank You” lunch for the 50 staff members who have worked to supervise the more than 400 children who attended the Club’s daily summer camp program.

Most of these are part-time summer workers, and some were previous club members who sought to work this summer with the Boys & Girls Club. Other part-time staff is made up of college students and local area young adults who sought the opportunity to work with the children.

This is our second year of bringing a really great lunch to the hard working young people at the Boys & Girls Club. We’re thankful for our great relationship with Firehouse Subs who have partnered with us so we can provide a wonderful lunch and show our gratitude to this team for doing a great job with the kids.

Club Operations Manager, Josh Queen said, “These young men and women work at Club’s summer program because they enjoy the experience and really love the children. This has been great, and we really appreciate Firehouse Subs and STAND T.A.L.L. for recognizing our staff for the work they do, and making one of the last days of our summer program really special for all of us.”

“Kids & Cops” is our largest youth program and is about to begin its third year working with the Boys & Girls Club. We provide off-duty law enforcement officers to spend time with the children as mentors after school and during the summer camp, to open lines of communication with many of them who don’t know the “human side” of people of law enforcement. In addition, the presence of these officers provides additional security at the Club for both the children and staff.

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STAND T.A.L.L. Brings “Books & Badges” Program to Hands On! Children’s Museum

STAND T.A.L.L. as part of its “Kids & Cops” program is pleased to announce a collaborative program with its newest partner, Hands On! Children’s Museum. This new program, “Books & Badges” began this week with the appearance of Laurel Park police officer Kayla Maybin and HCSO Deputy Jon Brezillac with his bloodhound Echo as part of the show & tell program. The attendees were pre-K children and their parents.

“Books & Badges” is a twice monthly program for Pre-K children and young K-6th grade school children who attend Hands On! The Tuesday Pre-K programs are designed to promote reading and respect for police using age appropriate detective and mystery stories that teach children about what law enforcement does. The concept includes having sessions where the children read the books with a uniformed, off duty police officer, and then do a creative craft like drawing, painting or building with Legos demonstrating the central theme from the day’s storybook reading. The program is underwritten by a grant provided by STAND T.A.L.L. and pays the cost of all off-duty police officers and the special books which were presented to Hands On!

The monthly Saturday programs for school age children include topics such as: Stranger Danger, Child Safety, and Fingerprinting. It will also offer the children a chance to see the inside of a police patrol car, learn what the officers carry on their utility belts, and a demonstration of the use of both the police department bloodhounds and K-9 dogs.

According to Ron Kauffman, president of STAND T.A.L.L., “After talking with the Museum’s Executive Director, Joseph Knight, we both agreed that today’s children can benefit from reading aloud as well as early interactions with our local law enforcement. Doing so will create better readers and build an atmosphere of trust and respect between the children who may have no idea about what police do.”

Joseph Knight added his thoughts saying, “We’ve been looking for a solid partner to work with us to provide both a unique learning experience for our existing members, as well as a way to broaden our outreach into the community. This “Books & Badges” program is an innovative concept that may help us increase our participating audience, especially in light of the planned expansion of our current facility’s space and offerings.”

The funding for the “Books & Badges” program is provided solely by STAND T.A.L.L. and is entirely dependent upon donations and grants. Donations for both the “Kids & Cops” and “Books & Badges” programs are needed.

As strong supporters of area law enforcement, STAND T.A.L.L. was invited to participate in this year's Shop with a Hero program at Walmart this past week.

First responders including law enforcement, fire fighters and EMS from Buncombe and Henderson County were at Walmart to greet 65 children from area schools who were chosen by their school guidance counselors on a variety of criteria, including financial need, to be treated to a $100 shopping spree at Walmart.

Ron Kauffman and Sharon Hanson of STAND T.A.L.L. were invited to join the first responders and accompany a child through the store on a fun shopping adventure, and were paired with Dora from Dana Elementary School.

Funded by grants from Walmart and the Elks Lodge among others, the children chose gifts for their families and themselves from the thousands of choices of toys, sporting goods, clothing and jewelry available at Walmart.

The photos below feature Dora, the 11-year old girl from Dana Elementary School who was accompanied by Ron & Sharon on her buying spree, and included a photo with Santa Claus at the end of the her day!

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