Erin Konecky expected Christmas would be difficult this year after her son's death in October. A Lincoln police officer's unexpected visit to her home Dec. 7 added more stress.
Officer Riley Ference told Konecky a package carrying a Christmas present for her 6-year-old son, Gram, had been swiped from their doorstep and was recovered by investigators.
"I didn't even realize it was missing until she showed up," Konecky said recently.
But Ference told her she wouldn't get the gift — a Spirograph drawing toy for her young artist — until January, and she'd need to coordinate with the prosecutor's office to have it turned over.
The next day, the Waverly High School teacher told her co-workers about the police visit to her home. Deputy Amanda May of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, who serves as the school's resource officer, was among those who listened.
"You don’t deserve that,” May told her. "You’ve been through enough in the last four months."
Konecky and her husband, Tim, had their second miscarriage to start the year. Erin became pregnant in March, but a 20-week ultrasound in July brought troubling news: Their baby had birth defects he would not survive.
The family spent the last half of 2017 preparing for their son's birth and death, and on Oct. 12, Spencer Keith Konecky was born.
He lived 96 minutes.
Knowing all of this, May resolved to remedy the Konecky's Christmas present situation.
She called Ference and the Lancaster County Attorney's Office and explained the importance of getting this $20 item back to the family.
The prosecutor explained the stolen Spirograph was needed for the trials of two 19-year-old men who were accused of stealing dozens of packages, including the Koneckys', that were left outside Lincoln homes in mid-November and early December.
Prosecutors couldn't just take a picture of it because it was a felony theft case, May was told.
Meanwhile, Erin Konecky explained to her son that one of his presents had been taken, hinting that it was an art-related gift.
He understood he would have to wait until after Christmas to get it.
"Those guys must just really like art," Gram told his mother.
Over the weekend, May checked around for a Spirograph as she did shopping of her own but couldn't find one.
Meanwhile, Ference sent May an email telling her to reassure Konecky — she'd found one.
Ference delivered a wrapped present to the Konecky home in northeast Lincoln on Dec. 15.
Gram opened the present and immediately started drawing. The officer posed for a picture with Gram and let him sit in the back of her cruiser.
Ference told Konecky she had been moved by their story, but Konecky said Ference and May's efforts to replace a $20 toy touched her even more.
"It felt like a nice bookend to this year that has been pretty rough," the 35-year-old mother said.
Working in law enforcement puts officers into the worst times in people's lives, so it's important to seize opportunities — no matter how small — to make a positive impact, May said. Ference declined to do an interview.
Police have since released the Koneckys' gift along with several others, and Gram has decided he wants to donate the extra Spirograph so another child can play with it.
Konecky wants people to know about the efforts of both officers, she said.
What amazes her is how much they cared for her family at a time of year when everyone has their own shopping and planning to do.
Her family has received an outpouring of support over the course of this difficult year. This unexpected, unnecessary but deeply appreciated gesture underscores that, she said: "Because of this, we've known true love from our community."