Anonymous officer gives boy $20 after toys burned in Roy car fire

Sunday , July 06, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Last Tuesday, when Joshua Groat’s 1978 Volkswagen Bus went up in flames on a Roy street, it destroyed a lot more vehicles in the process.

Some motorcycles. A few race cars. And whatever else his 6-year-old nephew, Jamal, happened to have taken with him on that fateful road trip.

“Whatever he could fit in his pocket was probably in there,” says Kathleen Bell, whose grandson loves toy cars and motorcycles, and tends to carry them around with him wherever he goes.

Jamal’s toys were in his uncle’s vehicle on Tuesday morning when the engine caught fire. Thankfully, Jamal and Micah Groat — the driver, and brother to the vehicle’s owner — got out of the VW Bus safely. Jamal’s toys weren’t so lucky.

“Jamal looked in the van, and could see his toys in there, but the police wouldn’t let him go back in to get them,” said Bell, who lives in Clearfield. “He was pretty upset, saying ‘I miss all my toys.’ ”

A short time later, according to Bell, Jamal walked up to his aunt, waving something green.

“That policeman gave me a dollar for toys,” he told her.

She looked at the bill.

“That’s not a dollar, honey, that’s $20,” she replied.

So far, no one’s taken responsibility for this act of extreme kindness.

“Nobody knows which officer it was,” Bell said.

Det. Jason Vanderwarf, spokesman for the Roy Police Department, said if it was one of his officers, no one’s fessing up so far.

“Our lieutenant asked around, because we want to give kudos ourselves,” Vanderwarf said. “But we don’t have an officer who’s stepped forward.”

Vanderwarf says he was led to believe that the boy said the money came from someone in uniform. The thinking at Roy P.D. is that either the officer was a policeman who wants to remain anonymous, or it was a fireman the boy mistook for a policeman.

“That’s our theory right now,” Vanderwarf said.

We weren’t able to reach a spokesman for the Roy Fire Department.

Bell believes it was a police officer, “Because my grandson knows the difference between who carries a gun and handcuffs, and who doesn’t.”

With the money Jamal was given, Bell says he bought a military helicopter, and an action figure wearing camouflage. She said Jamal loves all things military because his uncle — the owner of the now-burned-out VW — is currently aboard the USS George Washington, off the coast of Japan. Jamal also used the $20 to buy some race cars, and a soda pop for his aunt. He put whatever change was left over into his piggy bank.

“I thought that was really a neat thing,” said Bell, who’s been a single parent since 2002 and struggles to make ends meet. “For me, the financial position I’m in, I couldn’t have come up with the $20 for toys.”

Bell’s family has participated in shop-with-a-cop programs in the past, and she says that because of the donation Jamal was able to get new toys — something she wouldn’t have been able to do for him.

For instance, Bell took her grandson to the recent air show at Hill Air Force Base, and as much as Jamal would have liked a toy Thunderbird airplane, he knew not to plead for one.

“Jamal didn’t ask for anything, because he knows we can’t afford it,” Bell said. “He knows to be grateful for what he’s got, so this gesture is touching for all of us.”

Bell says she knows that there are a few bad cops out there who can give the rest a bad name. But this experience has renewed her faith in law enforcement. And humanity.

Who knows? Maybe our good Samaritan will step forward, maybe he won’t. I can certainly understand the very human desire to do good deeds anonymously. But I also understand the very human desire to put a face to such deeds — to have someone to thank.

Either way, I hope he knows just how much this simple act meant to this one happy little boy, and his grateful family.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at

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