Single mom Kati Elliott was truly trying to do it all — and doing a pretty good job of it, too, when she was struck by poor fortune.
Elliott was raising her son by herself in Highland Heights, Kentucky, where she also worked full-time and attended classes at the nearby Northern Kentucky University. It was slow moving, but the young mother was putting herself through school to walk away with a degree that might make life a little easier for her small family of two.
While leaving class one rainy day, though, she dropped her wallet in the parking lot while getting into her car.
She called campus police when she realized what had happened, backtracking to her parking space in an attempt to get her wallet back — but while she managed to find the rain-soaked wallet with her ID and all her cards still in it—
—a thief looking to make a quick buck had taken off with the cash she had inside.
For some, losing the cash from their wallet would be frustrating, but not a huge deal. For Elliott though, it was everything.
As she explained to the officer she called to report the theft, she’d been carrying $240 in cash around with her — both for things she and her son needed and as a way to help save up money for his upcoming birthday.
Losing that much in one fell swoop might not be the end of the world.
But it was a significant and devastating blow when $240 meant the difference between making rent and eviction.
Luckily for Elliott, her responding officer had a heart of gold.
Campus police officer Phil Liles had only been working at NKU for about two years when he encountered Elliott, but he had already developed a reputation within the NKU police department for going above and beyond what was already expected of him.
He didn’t want her to stress about the lost money, though, with all the hard work she was doing to improve her family’s quality of life — so he reached into his own wallet, pulling out $240 cash and giving it to the tearful young mom.
But he had a strict condition for her taking the money.
He wanted the single mother and student to show her his grades at the end of the semester.
“I don’t know how to express my gratitude for someone who would do something like that,” Elliott said in a video she initially posted to Facebook—which went viral in 2015 before she took it down due to the overwhelming attention.
Liles told her not to worry about repaying the money—and after his fellow officers found out, others in the NKU Police Department came together to give Liles $240 from the team as well.
As she explained in her video about the incident, Elliott knows that she wasn’t the only person in that encounter who has to carefully budget. “I know police officers don’t make a lot of money,” she explained, mentioning that she’s read the kind of pay they receive for the relentless hard work they do and the danger they put themselves in.
The fact that Liles was still willing to replace her stolen money, even though she knew that couldn’t have been easy on his own budget, touched her more than he knew.
Her video explaining the incident quickly went viral, as she showed a side of police work that often goes underreported. Bad news seems to be what gets the most airtime — and acts like these, police officers taking money out of their own pockets to help others, is something easily overlooked and taken for granted.
She wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case here, and that at least her fellow students at NKU would look upon them kindly, greet them with a smile. It’s a story that should be shared with others, to remind us all that anyone can go above and beyond their station to do good for someone in need.
NKU Police Chief Les Kachurek spearheaded the efforts to raise the money within his department to pay Liles back for Elliott, understanding that the burden wasn’t one the mom should be worried about during her school semester and leading up to her son’s birthday — which came just a few months before Christmas, another penny-pinching time of year for single moms such as herself.
He certainly wasn’t surprised to hear that it was Liles who had committed the kind act, though.
“As I am thinking about it now,” he told Cincinnati.com after the incident, “it’s choking me up.”
Liles told Elliott to keep her grades up and stay in touch — and while their relationship may be limited to a letter or a text here and there, she certainly kept her first promise.
According to her Facebook page, the mom graduated from NKU in May and now has a chance to work in highly paid jobs for the rest of her son’s life.
$240, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a lot of money. But for a single mom just trying to get through school, it likely meant the world.