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Chris Quay - Courier-Journal

Video - CNN

A Louisville Metro Police officer overheard a conversation about a month ago at Hauck's grocery store on Goss Avenue that tugged at his heart.

A customer and the store's owner were talking about 9-year-old Allen Kiper, whose father had recently died after being diagnosed with cancer.

Officer Dale Cottongim, who is a member of the K-9 unit and who grew up in Germantown, asked about the neighborhood boy. The store owner explained that Allen lives with his mother and grandmother and because of the recent death of his father probably "wasn't going to have a very good Christmas."

Cottongim said the store owner, aware of the boy's situation, let Allen take an item and he chose a bag of candy. Thinking he was going to choose a toy, the owner gave the boy another selection. This time he grabbed a bag of plastic army men.

"The excitement on his face was just unbelievable," Cottongim said the owner told him.

Cottongim said he contacted the boy's mother, Virginia Kiper, and asked if it would be OK if the K-9 unit helped out. She agreed, he said.

Along with his partner and the rest of the K-9 unit, $400 was raised to buy Allen some toys and a few gifts for Virginia Kiper and Allen's grandmother Edna Hammons.

Cottongim and members of the K-9 unit surprised the boy and his mother at their Mulberry Street home with a special delivery yesterday afternoon.

Allen mustered a few words like "cool" and "whoa" and an occasional "awesome." Eventually he said, "This is the best day of my life," as he unwrapped the gifts. There were toy cars, a remote-controlled motorcycle and a couple of sweaters.

Kiper said Allen was close to his father and his death has been tough on the boy. "It's a very big day for him," she said. "It's going to be a good Christmas."

Cottongim said the effort started after he sent an e-mail to the members of the K-9 unit asking them to help Allen. The response was overwhelming. Cottongim and the officers began buying gifts at the beginning of December.

"I had guys calling me up the next day from Toys 'R' Us asking, 'How old is he and what kind of toys does he like?' " he said. "Everyone jumped on board."

This is the first year Cottongim has solely coordinated helping a family. He said he usually participates in other charity efforts held by metro police at Christmastime.

But Cottongim knew that he needed to take the initiative in this case.

"This family is going through the death of a loved one," he said. "Worrying about Christmas should be the last thing on their mind."