OLIVE BRANCH, MS (WMC) - It has been nearly a decade since Olive Branch Police Officer Mark Ayers was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty during a traffic stop.
His community is still working on ways to thank him for his sacrifice.
"Knew he had a need and it touched my heart," Amy Hughes, owner of Sweet Pea's Table, said.
After more than a year of fundraising and diligent work, Ayers has a new handicap accessible van.
"It means a lot to me to be able to get out and do simple things like get something to eat and get groceries," Ayers said.
Ayers was shot in 2006. Although he was paralyzed, he still works to protect his community as a detective on the force.
"I'm part of this community," Hughes said. "He risked his life to serve me."
When Hughes, the daughter of a former police officer, first met Ayers, she said she immediately had a soft spot and wanted to help him.
In July, her restaurant hosted a benefit for Ayers, complete with a 5k race, tennis tournament, arts and crafts and more. The event raised $60,000.
"It makes me feel good to know he has what he needs to maintain his independence," Hughes said.
That money, along with funds from the Mississippi Vocational Rehab, paid for the state-of-the-art van.
Now, Ayers can get around on his own.
"It means the world to me, everything they have done for me," Ayers said.
Now that Ayers has his van, some of the remaining fundraising money is going toward making repairs to his old van and donating it to another person in need.
"There are other people out there who need help," Ayers said. "Everybody should do what they can to go out and help others."