Stephanie Hammond has a caring heart and big smile. She makes friends easily with her magnetic personality that follows wherever she goes.
Her friendship is extended to the men and women who serve as law enforcement throughout the world.
Stephanie reaches out to officers, deputies, troopers, U.S. Marshalls and more almost every week. She writes letters to connect.
“I let officers know that I appreciate them for their service,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie, 38 of Martinez, Calif., has written to 100s of police officers. She customizes each of her handwritten letters.
Letter writing started way back in 1998 after her first Special Olympic event – that’s 18 years!
Multiply 18 years x 52 weeks per year, and you get 936 letters mailed to police officers worldwide.
That’s a lot of writing!
Stephanie has even received a few in return, including letters from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and reporter Maria Shriver.
“I wouldn’t say I have a favorite because all the letters I receive are very special,” she said.
Letters bring recognition
Stephanie shared a letter with Apostrophe that she wrote before sending. In it, she introduced herself and tells about the challenges she had as a child.
“All through my school years I was picked on and bullied,” she wrote. “Even though I struggled in school, I feel pretty lucky to have found Special Olympics and the Torch Run.”
She was acknowledged for her dedication to recognizing police officers being named a Law Enforcement Torch Run Athlete Representative.
An officer-run organization, the Torch Run holds events to raise funds for the Special Olympics.
Today, officers continue to receive letters Stephanie writes. She meets them at Torch Run fundraisers close to home in Northern California. Stephanie also met officers at events in Illinois, Nevada, Texas and Washington as well as the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in California.
More than writing letters
Pictured above, Shawn Maples, Sergeant at the El Cerrito Police Department in California, made friends with Stephanie after seeing her at several events over the years. He’s an agency coordinator for the Special Olympics.
Maples says he enjoys watching her at work, which isn’t limited to writing letters.
“She does a lot of outreach to officers, including social media,” he said. “Her networking is amazing.”
For example, Stephanie made care packages (with homemade snickerdoodles) for 100s of law enforcement who participated in the Torch Run and opening ceremony at the 2016 Northern California Special Olympics Summer Games.
Stephanie is also an International Global Ambassador for Special Olympics and a volunteer for Project Unify. Visiting local communities and schools, she speaks about bullying, acceptance, equality and respect for people with disabilities.
“She plays a valuable role because of her willingness to reach out,” Maples said. “She goes out of her way to keep relationships alive.”
She’d like to become an officer
Stephanie is passionate about law enforcement, and someday, she’d like to become a police officer.
“My dream is to join law enforcement, I want to have an opportunity to help people and make a difference,” Stephanie said.
She’s attended three citizen academies to get a feel for the profession. The classes gave Stephanie a basic overview, and she rode with police officers on duty during the 7- to 10-week courses.
Two jobs she’s considered include being a school resource officer or a K9 officer (because she loves animals).
“I learned that officers are just like us, and they are doing their jobs to help people,” Stephanie said.
While writing letters is one way to show her appreciation, Stephanie has a bigger purpose behind her actions.
She says the media often portrays police officers poorly. It gives them a bad rap. A true leader who stands up for what she believes in, Stephanie said, “I’m on a mission to change the perception of law enforcement.”
ApostropheMagazine.com publishes a free weekly email newsletter that goes straight to the inbox of those who sign up. Within each email, you’ll receive a link to one free story, plus hear about the latest happenings and subscription specials.
All you have to do is hit the newsletter Sign-Up button below, and enter your name and email to start receiving ApostropheMagazine.com’s free weekly newsletter.