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Charles County sheriffs help make girl's Christmas merrier, despite loss of her firefighter father

Cheyenne Brown participated in the Charles County Sheriff's Office "Shop With A Cop" program. She is  with Deputy Sheriff Clarence Black, who was her chauffeur and chaperone for the event, in which needy kids received a $200 stipend to shop at Wal-Mart for clothes and some toys. Cheyenne is wearing a firefighters hat that belonged to her father, Michael Browne, a volunteer fire fighter who was killed by a tornado in 2006 when the family was living in North Carolina. She now lives with a grandmother in Waldorf.
Cheyenne Brown participated in the Charles County Sheriff's Office "Shop With A Cop" program. She is with Deputy Sheriff Clarence Black, who was her chauffeur and chaperone for the event, in which needy kids received a $200 stipend to shop at Wal-Mart for clothes and some toys. Cheyenne is wearing a firefighters hat that belonged to her father, Michael Browne, a volunteer fire fighter who was killed by a tornado in 2006 when the family was living in North Carolina. She now lives with a grandmother in Waldorf. (Courtland Milloy/the Washington Post)

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By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 8:12 PM

Thanks to the Charles County Sheriff's Office, 8-year-old Cheyenne Browne has pretty much everything she wants for Christmas - a new dress, jeans, pajamas, sneakers and boots.

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Everything except maybe a remote-controlled fire truck, helicopter and police car - and a Barbie doll.

Not that she's complaining. It's just that her father, Michael Browne, was a volunteer firefighter when the family lived in Riegelwood, N.C. In 2006, he was killed while shielding Cheyenne, then 4, from a tornado that destroyed their home.

"My dad used to let me ride in his fire truck with him," Cheyenne said. She loves to wear his firefighters hat - and sure would like a truck to go with it.

Now living with her grandmother in Waldorf, Cheyenne was among 85 youngsters chosen by a volunteer group of sheriffs' deputies to participate in their annual "Shop with a Cop" program. On Saturday, a motorcade of patrol cars carried them to a Wal-Mart, where they got to spend about $200 apiece, mostly on clothes.

Deputy Sheriff Clarence Black served as Cheyenne's chauffeur and chaperone, and he had the foresight to bring along two civilian volunteers, both women, to help the girl pick out clothes.

In the toy department, however, Cheyenne needed no help at all. A big, shiny red remote-controlled hook and ladder made her eyes light up. But the truck was a budget buster, and essentials like shoes and coats had to come first.

Then she saw a remote-controlled helicopter. And her eyes lighted up again. "I rode in one," she said.

Four years ago, on Nov. 16, her father was headed for work at the Acme-Delco-Riegelwood Fire and Rescue Station when he heard the tornado warning on his fire dispatch radio.

Michael Browne went back to get Cheyenne and other family members - he and her mother had separated - to take everybody to the fire station for safety. As he was carrying his daughter to the car, however, the tornado appeared out of nowhere. He tried to make it to a ravine for cover.

But, as Cheyenne recalled, "We just started flying, like Superman."

Browne died after being pummeled by debris. Cheyenne was critically injured when a tree limb fell on her face, crushing her jaw. She briefly regained consciousness while being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Chapel Hill.


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