Derry Borough man gives back to police program that aided his family
Three years ago, Elmer Smart didn't know how he would give his two young daughters a merry Christmas.
Smart had become a single dad to Mindy, now 7, and Elisha, now 4, who witnessed the horrific deaths of their mother and brother when they were struck by a train while crossing railroad tracks in Derry Borough.
In those dark days, Smart was lent a helping hand by state police Trooper Stephen Limani and his Shop With A Cop program, which provided each of the girls with $50 Wal-Mart gift cards to buy Christmas presents.
Smart never forgot the gesture, and wanting to give back, he recently donated $1,000 to Shop With A Cop.
“I figured we're in a position now to donate back, me and my girls, so that's what we're doing,” said Smart, 47, of Derry. “It helped us out a good bit that year. I didn't know how I was going to do (Christmas) that year.”
Smart said he talked with both girls before making the donation. He said Mindy fondly remembers going shopping with the police officers less than two months after the deaths of her mother, Sheila Singer, 37, and brother, John Smart, 2.
Singer and all three children were attempting to cross the train tracks when John's stroller got caught. Singer got the two girls off the tracks, but a train struck and killed her and John as she tried to free the stroller.
Earlier this year, Smart received a settlement from Norfolk Southern Railway Co. for a wrongful death claim he brought against the company. He declined to comment on the settlement.
Smart and his daughters still live across Second Street from the tracks — a constant reminder of the accident.
“Me and my oldest, we talk about it, because there's no use holding it in,” Smart said.
Elisha still asks where her mom is from time to time, he said.
“We're doing the best we can do,” he said. “It's hard being a single parent, but I'm doing it.”
Limani said he was shocked by how much Smart donated to Shop With A Cop, which pairs police officers with underprivileged children or those who have been victims of a tragedy to go shopping for Christmas.
This year, children will receive a $100 Wal-Mart gift card and winter outerwear during the shopping events.
Limani said Smart's donation will help 10 children this Christmas.
“He gave me 10 times the generosity I showed him,” Limani said of Smart.
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.