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'100 percent surprised:' St. Joseph girl with ALS made honorary police officer

As her first assignment, Kennedy tossed out candy in the Flag Day parade with her best friend.

THREE OAKS, Mich. - The Three Oaks Police department gained a new officer Sunday, one who put a significant dent in the average age at the force.

Kennedy Arney, a seven-year-old from St. Joseph with juvenile ALS, was sworn in as an honorary Three Oaks police officer at the village's annual Flag Day parade.

"My granddaughter is her best friend, and she made mention that [Kennedy] always wanted to be a police officer," said Three Oaks Police Chief Dennis Buller. "She's only seven years old. And we thought that was pretty special, so we thought we'd make her dream come true."

Kennedy was diagnosed with juvenile ALS, an even rarer form of the neurodegenerative disorder, in March. In May, she ran the Nana's Run 5K with Scott Bylsma, the former officer at the Grand Rapids Police Department who was diagnosed with ALS in 2017.

"With all of the struggles, she just finds a way to put her smile on her face and not complain and keep going," said Jennifer Arney, Kennedy's mother. "She falls down, she'll get back up."

Kennedy wanted to be a police officer after watching the 2016 hit film "Zootopia."

"She had her pin. She would walk around giving people tickets," Jennifer said. "So it really just kind of stuck."

Multiple law enforcement agencies joined the Three Oaks Police Departments including officials from Berrien County, St. Joseph, the Potawatomi tribe, Amtrak and New Buffalo.

"[It was] so cool to see all the different departments coming up to recognize her," said Kennedy's father Michael Arney. "Just getting to see the smile on her face was worth every ounce of sweat today that we're putting out in the heat."

Buller handed Kennedy a belt equipped with handcuffs. She also received a miniature police car, marked with the license plate "FIGHTER."

"I was, like, 100 percent surprised, maybe 1000 [percent]," Kennedy said.

As her first assignment, Kennedy tossed out candy in the Flag Day parade with her best friend, Zoe. It's a milestone moment in her life, Jennifer said.

"You know you wonder how long she'll be here and what she'll have," she said. "So when you have these moments and you get to see her have these milestones, it's more than I can express."

The family set up a GoFundMe in an attempt to help pay for Kennedy's medical expenses.

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