HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville police officers from the South Precinct opened their doors to the community on Wednesday night.
It was scheduled before the day that Officer Billy Clardy died during a drug enforcement operation.
The event was about helping officers help the community. But after a whirlwind last few days, this event was just as much about healing for the officers.
Many police officers will tell you there can be a disconnect with the communities that they police and the officers themselves. It's events like these that help bridge the gap by showing children that officers of the law are there to help them.
From the outside, without context, this looks like a neighborhood holiday party with activities and even a visit from Santa.
Children participated in activities led by police officers, including woodworking, making balloon animals and fake snowball fights.
But when you look harder, you see some of Huntsville's finest, some police officers with their families, others here to engage the community they swore to protect.
Not all children see these men and women as heroes, yet Huntsville police believe events like this create memories at an early age and will pave the way for better relationships for years to come.
On a small table, front and center at the gathering, pictures of fallen officer Billy Clardy III reminded the room of what sacrifice looks like. These families have each other. Whereas the Clardys face the unimaginable this holiday season.
Huntsville PD even considered delaying this open house.
"Billy Clardy he was a part of the community," said Captain Ken Brooks." He served the community as a community relations officer. We just felt like Billy would want us to continue on. We were not going to allow this to stop us."