LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– A 10-year-old girl, with the help of several mourning police officers, blocked off part of the Las Vegas strip Wednesday afternoon to honor a fallen hero.
It has been almost one week since Las Vegas Metropolitan Police (LVMPD) Officer Truong Thai was killed in the line of duty. While the department he worked in for 23 years continues to grieve, Fifth Grader Theresa Ann joined them in a mile run down the strip.
“First I started running for October 1, for the 58 angels,” Ann said at the starting line Wednesday afternoon.
The Las Vegas native loves to run, but for a purpose. Since the age of four, Ann has helped raise money for fallen and injured police officers and K9s through lemonade stands and mile-long runs.
She and her dad, Robert Babcock, have pursued this fundraising through multiple nonprofits over the years. Wednesday, it was through Running 4 Heroes, which Babcock is a director of.
“She’s ran for Charles Hartfield, Chad Parque, some officers that have passed here locally, but this one’s more special because Thai trained a lot of these officers,” Babcock said while standing next to his daughter Wednesday afternoon.
Carrying a large flag, the 10-year-old led a group of over 20 LVMPD officers and loved ones of Thai from the Excalibur parking lot to the LVMPD South Central Area Command Station near the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Police escorts blocked in the runners along Las Vegas Boulevard while drivers and pedestrians looked on.
Janet Thai ran the mile memorial with them. She’s the niece of the fallen officer, though she said he was more of a father figure to her growing up.
“We’re overwhelmed, speechless even,” Janet said through tears while looking at the number of runners in attendance Wednesday afternoon. “It really makes us feel quite honored to be among family during this time.”
Her family’s grief is shared by these officers, she said. Hugs between them and Thai’s family were commonly exchanged while reminiscing about the man who left a mark in Las Vegas policing.
Though the run lasted just over 12 minutes, she believed it was one of the multiple memorials to her late Uncle that was helping to keep his legacy on track.
“We’re just so grateful and it’s so hard to say thank you. Every time I see any metro officer, our family just wants to hug each and every single one. I know they’re feeling the loss just as much as we are,” Janet said with tears in her eyes.
At the end of the run, Ann said it was “not really” hard with a smile. Instead, she chose to focus on the purpose of this run.
“If you could hypothetically speak to Officer Thai today, what would you have told him?” 8 News Now asked.
“I would’ve said thank you for your service and you’re a great hero,” Ann responded through heavy breathing.
The flag Ann held throughout the run was donated to the Thai family, as they are to the families of other fallen officers she runs for, to commemorate the memorial.
Running 4 Heroes has donated over $100,000 dollars to help fallen police officers and fallen firefighters get back on their feet, K9 officers in need of safety equipment, and families of fallen personnel with children under the age of 18 years old. Supporters can donate to them on their website.