Runners, families and emergency responders gather for a celebration of law enforcement and fun on a sunny Saturday in Ozark.

The Ozark police station hosted the Run With the Cops 5k and Emergency Responders Awareness Day, a pair of events celebrating the people who answer the calls when emergencies arise in Ozark.

All of the proceeds from the Run With the Cops 5k benefit the Fraternal Order of Police “Shop With a Cop” effort. Sgt. Matt Jones is vice president of the Ozark chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“Last year we purchased toys for 100 children. We give each of them a $100 gift card. We take them in the store, we shop for whatever they want to get, we purchase it with the gift cards and we send them home with some Christmas presents for the holidays,”

A total of 84 runners took part in the 5k, and their entry fees will help kids in the Ozarks go holiday shopping with police officers.

“We want to be involved and get out there and benefit some people in need. Children, especially, are the people we enjoy helping out,” Jones said. “In addition to supporting the police families and the officers here within the department, we obviously want to give something back to the community.”

After the race, some of the same police officers who ran took part in the fourth annual Emergency Responders Awareness Day. The parking lot of the Ozark police station turned into an outdoor block party.

Capt. Justin Arnold explained that the event shows off the softer side of police, firefighters and other emergency responders.

“The idea is for emergency responders from throughout the county, whether its the sheriff’s office, the ambulance district, the fire district or emergency management, to be able to interact with the people that we serve in an unofficial capacity,” Arnold said. “That way, maybe the first time they meet a police officer or a firefighter isn’t in a stressful situation, it’s in a positive environment.”

Many of the Ozark police officers brought their families and children to the event as a fun way to spend downtime together with their coworkers, and with the general public.

“They see that we’re people too. We’re able to have a good time,” Arnold said.

Arnold said it is also valuable for different emergency response agencies to interact with each other away from the scenes of emergencies. For example, police officers, firefighters and EMTs were able to learn about each other’s work and what services each group offers.

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