The gifts started with a bicycle for Holly Prothero, who turned 7 shortly after her father's death. It was delivered by about half a dozen police cruisers that rolled up to the house with lights and sirens on. She's now in college, but the fund continues. They send $50 in annual Christmas and birthday cards to the children. They deliver flowers on Ann Prothero's birthday and send a centerpiece for Christmas.

"After 13 years, we have not missed a birthday or Christmas," said Neral, who makes the biweekly trip to Sam's Club to restock supplies for the snack stand that pays for the gifts.

The snack stand fund also supports the officers, providing for retirement plaques and small parties. They also used the money to buy a few sets of binoculars for surveillance, along with other items for the precinct.

Prothero actually started the stand. Back then, the money helped each shift pay for Christmas parties and other functions. He jokingly called the store Bruce Club, after making many trips to Sam's Club himself.

The name endures today, written in a sign above the food shelves.

At the snack stand there's one card from the family that shows Prothero's children in swim team suits in front of a pool. In another picture, they're all in soccer jerseys. Other framed shots show the children getting new bikes. Each received a bike on their seventh birthday.

There's also a stack of notes from the family, including one that Holly sent after she got her bike.

"I have no problem riding it," she wrote.

Rick Prothero said the family still has a close relationship with the Police Department. His brother, the youngest of eight children, was the only police officer in the family.

"We don't know why he did it," he said with a smile. But he added, "We're all pretty proud of that."

A previous version of this story misstated author Wes Moore's comments on the Prothero family's attitude about his book.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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