By Amy Perry, Fort Lee Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – When Grace Byrne was assigned a community service project in her 8th grade Civics and Economics class at Elizabeth Davis Middle School in Chesterfield, she didn’t hesitate in choosing an outreach effort close to her heart.

The daughter of Maj. Sidney Byrne, course director for the Support Operations Course at the Army Logistics University, chose to raise money for the Chesterfield County Police Department K-9 section.

“I love dogs, and I wanted to give back to the police department for making sacrifices every day,” she said.

The major said his daughter has always loved dogs and was appreciative of those who serve others.

“Grace is very aware of the sacrifices people in uniforms make,” said Byrne, a 22-year Soldier. “That’s all she’s ever known. With servicemen – including police officers or firemen – she knows about the dangers that go along with some of these professions. That’s where her heart was when it came to picking a project.”

Doing additional chores around the house and at her grandparents’ farm helped Grace raise some of the initial $700 she donated to the unit. Chesterfield County Police Officer Adam Moody, a K-9 handler, said the donation helped the department tremendously.

“Grace has helped bring a positive approach to supporting our K-9 Section,” he said. “Grace has been able to raise money on her own to help protect our Police Working Dogs. Without volunteers and donations from community members like Grace, we would not have been able to host the 2015 Virginia Police Work Dog Association Iron Dog Competition. This K-9 competition was open to and supported by the community.”

Aside from making the donation, Grace and her family have reached out to the unit expressing a desire to assist any way they can, said Moody. Because of that, Grace was invited to attend the Iron Dog Competition in April and even helped pass out ribbons.

“Grace is an energetic, hard-working volunteer,” he said. “We welcome public involvement and appreciate those who volunteer. We need volunteers and use them regularly in training, and also for larger events such as the Iron Dog Competition.”

Grace said she was thrilled to be able to help out at the competition.

“They had me doing different jobs,” she said. “During one of the events, I hid so one of the search dogs could find me. That was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of different K-9 handlers.”

The department was touched a young member of the community was interested in helping out their K-9s, said Byrne, and really showed their appreciation at the event.

“They gave her the royal treatment,” he said. “They took her around to see all of the dogs and their teams. She got to ask hundreds of questions. It was their way to recognize her contribution and say thank you.

“It was just a fabulous day for Grace,” continued Byrne. “It was all because she wanted to help the dogs, and she went out to raise money for them on her own.”

Although her community service project is over, the teen is continuing to gather donations for the unit. Her most recent endeavor is creating a Chesterfield County K-9 hoodie to help raise money. She also has joined the Chesterfield Explorers, a group similar to Junior ROTC that gets an inside look at how the police department works. Eventually, she plans to get a degree in criminal justice.

“I’ve always wanted to do something a service-type career but also working with dogs,” she said. “Law enforcement is a good fit, especially since I can be a K-9 handler. My love of dogs and wanting to serve the community just came together.”