Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Doggie donation resonates across the country

Cop?s good deed nets city $250,000

Express Staff Writer

Forrest Danilson

The story of Ketchum catching a quarter-million-dollar donation from a couple grateful for an officer's help in locating their car and dogs has resonated in newspapers and news Web sites across the country.

"It's one of those rare news stories, a rare feel-good story," said Todd Dvorak, Associated Press correspondent in Boise.

After the Idaho Mountain Express broke the story in the Friday, Aug. 3, edition, the Associated Press bureau in Boise picked up the story and sent a version to thousands of its members around the nation.

The story surfaced last week when Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman confirmed that a couple gave an anonymous gift to the city of $250,000 in stock, in gratitude for officer Tony Atienza finding their misplaced car in June. The couple, with interests in the area, contacted Ketchum police after they couldn't locate where they had parked and were concerned about their dogs.

In an effort that Lyman said is typical of his officers, Atienza helped find the car, and the dogs were fine.

"Our officer went the extra mile and helped them locate the vehicle," the chief said. That same week, Lyman said he received a note from the couple. "They said this was 'really neat' and they wanted to do something for the Police Department."

It took Atienza and Sgt. Forrest Danilson about 30 minutes to find the car and the two poodles inside.

"They offered it (the check) to Tony that night," Danilson said.

"We declined and they insisted," Atienza said in a brief interview Monday.

"We sealed it up and put it in the chief's box," Danilson said.

"Surprised" was his reaction when given the check, Atienza said. He declined to appear before the Ketchum City Council at its Monday, Aug. 6, meeting and declined to be photographed for this article.

"I never expected it," he said.

The City Council accepted the donation at its meeting, approving a resolution to open a stock account so the donation could go into the city's general fund in cash.

"We're very grateful to this donor," Lyman told the council. "They (our officers) are very good at these service roles."

Lyman said he told the couple that no contribution was necessary but if they wanted to do something to go through the mayor's office.

"Any use of the money will go to help the community through a public safety function," Lyman said. "We're not just going to buy bullets with it."

Meanwhile the rest of the country heard about the doggie donation.

"We picked up the story from the Mountain Express's Web site because of its news value and appeal," the Associated Press' Dvorak said.

"It's not every day that a city gets a $250,000 donation. Usually people are trying to get money back from the government," Dvorak said.

He added the story appealed to his news organization because of "the size of the donation, and I guess the reason behind it."

The Associated Press story appeared on the Web site on Monday.

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