Sheriff's Office Recognizes Influential Young People in the Community

                                                                                                               NEWS RELEASE #: 16-242 - DECEMBER 30, 2016

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The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office today recognized eight local young people who made an impact on the agency and its personnel in 2016. Because of recent law enforcement tragedies across the country, on the last working day of the year, the agency's Community Affairs hosted a luncheon and award presentation.

26-year-old Randy Beaverson of Sarasota first met Deputy John Fandozzi of the sheriff's office Marine Unit in April. The Beaverson family was at Marina Jack in Sarasota when they spotted a sheriff's office vessel on the bayfront. Deputy Fandozzi stepped off the boat and met Randy with a handshake and several sheriff's office mementos. A few short weeks after their interaction, Deputy Fandozzi invited Randy to join him for a day on the water during the agency's annual fishing tournament. Randy's family expressed their gratitude to the agency for giving Randy something to look forward to after a tough year and series of life-threatening surgeries.

A 5-year-old child (whose name cannot be publicized), met Sergeant Gerardo Carrillo over the summer at a gas station in Sarasota, while he was with his Guardian Ad Litem. Sergeant Carrillo approached the child in an attempt to give him a 'Be Our Guest' coupon for a free happy meal; the initiative sponsored by McDonald's, recognizes kids practicing safety and making good choices. Based on the child's tumultuous past and fear of law enforcement, he was hesitant to take the coupon. In an effort to connect with the child, Sergeant Carrillo talked to his Guardian Ad Litem and arranged to stop by the child's school; a place where he was most comfortable. Sergeant Carrillo made a surprise visit bringing along stickers, coloring books and more, for each of the students in the class. Since that day, the child and Sergeant Carrillo's relationship has continued to grow so much that the child no longer fears law enforcement. Carrillo continues to act as a liaison and resource to both the child and his Guardian Ad Litem.

Grace Weigman, a student at Oak Park School in Sarasota has a very special relationship with Deputy Michael Brooks, who is currently assigned as her school resource deputy. Back in July when Grace invited Deputy Brooks to her 9th birthday party and he was unable to attend, Lieutenant Dale Barshinger and Sergeant Cliff Legg dropped by the party on his behalf. They came equipped with a sheriff's office patch and badge to swear Grace in. A photo posted to the sheriff's office Facebook page of Grace and her two partners in green garnered national media attention. Often referred to as "Amazing Grace", the 9-year-old is one in only 150 people in the world battling Robinow Syndrome. Despite her dozens of surgeries, Grace keeps an optimistic attitude and looks forward to the future.

In early August, Gemma Gallaway and her three children Brandin, Daniel and Jacob, visited the sheriff's office at 2071 Ringling Bvld., in Sarasota, to present the agency with goodie bags on behalf of Freedom Christian Church in Sarasota. Nearly a dozen uniformed agency members accepted the gifts and thanked the Gallaway family for their support. Their touching visit came only a few weeks after five Dallas police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.

Anna Cate and Michael Barry touched the hearts of many when they threw a party for the sheriff's office K-9 Unit in lieu of celebrating their own birthdays. In early December, the brother and sister team paired up with Woofgang Bakery in Sarasota to collect gifts and raise money for the K-9 Unit's medical fund. More than 100 community members attended the event to show their support. K-9 handlers and their partners surprised the crowd with a series of special demonstrations and presented gifts to Anna Cate and Michael. On Friday, the Barry family and Mark Austin, owner of Woofgang Bakery, presented the sheriff's office with a check for $1,000.

"The things these young people have done for our personnel is beyond words," said Community Affairs Director Kaitlyn Perez. "As challenging as a career in law enforcement can be, it's moments like these which remind us what a profound impact our community has on the work we do."

During Friday's event, each honoree was presented with a certificate and recognized as an 'Honorary Deputy' under the hand of Colonel Kurt A. Hoffman.