When terrible things happen, APD Crisis Team counselors respond. 75 percent of the time, a child is involved. Unfortunately, violence doesn't stop for the holidays.
One counselor is using soccer to help make those situations a little easier for those children.
The best part of Jackie Garrett's job making children smile. Wednesday, the APD crisis counselor spread some early holiday cheer by handing out soccer balls to neighborhood kids.
Typically, the balls are given to children who have been caught in the most horrible of circumstances.
"I can be family violence sexual assaults, child abuse, homicide, suicide, natural deaths that happen in the city," she said.
It is Jackie's job to respond with police and be there for the victims. Most of her calls involve children. Jackie used to take teddy bears to the scenes to give to the kids, as is custom for all APD counselors.
"Lots of times boys weren't so gung ho on the bears," said Jackie.
The soccer fanatic and former Baylor University goalie kicked around an idea.
"I had a couple extra soccer balls around the house and I wasn't using them at the time. I thought a kid could really use these. I put them in my car and I started giving the few out that I had. I would buy them here and there when I had extra money. It was so successful and the kids responded so well that it drove me to want more and more of them," she said.
Officers caught onto what Jackie was doing and asked for some of the soccer balls. They are now in the trunks of patrol cars all across town.
So far Jackie has been lucky with donations. But she knows she will need a lot more to get her through the holidays.
Her only request is that the balls be new.
"These kids don't get anything new. No one's going to buy them a new soccer ball. So if I give them something new it just has a little more meaning to it. They are worthy enough, they are good enough to get something new," Jackie said.
Jackie created a Facebook page called "Have a Ball" where she shows some of the recipients. She likes to let those who help know where their donations go.
Jackie has given out 500. Her goal is much higher.
"It is a hope that that connection at that moment whatever words we talk about they may not always remember that but my hope is that they remember kind of how it felt to get that soccer ball--something new," she said.
If you would like to help, send Jackie a message on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/haveaballaustin
You can also drop off a new soccer ball at the APD East Substation. It's located at 812 Springdale Road in Austin. There is a barrel in the lobby.