ALBEMARLE — K9 Joker of the Oakboro Police Department has raised $5,400 and counting for Toys for Tots, a charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps that provides Christmas gifts for low-income children. The flurry of donations came after a close head-to-head national K9 photo contest. A dog from an Ohio department ended up narrowly edging out K9 Joker in the contest, which ended on Thanksgiving Day, but the Oakboro Police Department skillfully leveraged that attention for a good cause.
“I’ll be honest; so much [money] is coming in that I don’t know what to tell you,” Oakboro Police Chief T.J. Smith told SCJ on Nov. 29. “It appears to be approximately $5,400 for Toys for Tots.”
Smith said K9 Joker’s handler entered the dog into the contest, which was organized by Blue Line Unlimited, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping law enforcement and their families. Then support from the local community launched K9 Joker to the head of the pack, where he stayed, locked in a tight race with K9 Recon from Brimfield, Ohio.
During the battle, officers from Oakboro and Brimfield developed a camaraderie and praised each other’s dedication and community spirit. The lead passed back and forth between the two, but ultimately, Brimfield PD won with 18,102 votes to Oakboro’s 16,624. The third place finisher happened to be a dog from another local law enforcement agency, the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office.
Blue Line Unlimited announced the winner, saying, “Congratulations! For those of you who followed the contest, you know that the Brimfield Police Department (Ohio) and Oakboro Police Department (North Carolina) became friendly rivals over the past week or so – creating fierce competition for their opponent! We loved the effort, enthusiasm, and energy that was put into the competition, so we have decided to create a second place prize bracket of $250.00 that will be donated to K9 Joker of the Oakboro Police Department!”
Chief Smith commented on the last-minute rule change, telling SCJ, “The race was so close, that they went ahead and gave him $250, and of course he put it towards the Toys for Tots.”
And after they donated K9 Joker’s winnings to Toys for Tots, Smith says other locals started reaching out and wanting to donate money in honor of K9 Joker. Recent donations announced include Simply Chic Floral Boutique giving $200, Sanchez Painting giving $150, $100 in memory of Chester Allen and Family, Divine Real Estate Boutique giving $200, Education Solution Services giving $100, Deeter Real Estate giving $100 and Normac Kitchens giving $250, among many others, which can be viewed on OPD’s Facebook page.
“I’ve said it for years: people love to help people, especially when it’s near home, and I’m very proud of that. I think the people of Stanly County should be as well,” Smith said. “And it’s very humbling, and I’m excited to see where it ends up.”
K9 Joker is one of two OPD K9 officers, both of which are named for Batman villains. The other, Bane, is not active in the field at the moment as his future handler completes K9 training.
“That was just Joker’s contribution towards the Toys for Tots effort,” Smith said of the $5,400 and counting collected, adding they have also been raising money for the cause with an annual event. “We do a thing called Cop on Top, where I and the sheriff get on top of Napa [Auto Parts], and we raised nearly $6,000, plus toys and 50-some bikes.”