Park Forest police rally around wounded officer through scholarship

It's been almost three years since Park Forest Police Officer Tim Jones nearly died in the line of duty.

But the department he works for has never faltered in their support of him. That support continues through a scholarship in his honor.

If you notice the police officers in Park Forest looking a little, well, scruffier than usual, there's good reason.

“Personnel really enjoy taking advantage of wearing a beard, facial hair other than mustaches,” said Brian Rzyski, Deputy Chief of Police for the Park Forest Police Department.

The department started a "No Shave" November campaign in 2015 to raise money for cancer. Back then, rookie officer Tim Jones won "Best Beard" in a Facebook contest.

“I always tease him, that he should not have won the 2015 beard competition. It was his pearly white smile and good looks that won that competition for him,” Rzyski said.

“That smile used to get him out of trouble in school, and sometimes with me, you know. It's a cheater smile,” said William Jones, who’s Tim’s father and chief of police in Country Club Hills.

Tim followed in the footsteps of his dad.

“When he started taking police exams and when he chose his department, oh, that was a great day,” Jones said.

But March 19, 2016 would change Tim, his family and Park Forest forever.

“When you open the door and you see your son's chief of police, you know it's not good,” Jones said.

Officer Jones was shot three times that day, responding to a burglary call, and the prognosis was dim.

“From the time we walked in the hospital, they gave us, no one gave us any hope, none whatsoever, everyone is just saying, I'm sorry Mr. Jones, I'm sorry Mr. Jones,” Jones said.

But the family held out hope, and Tim held on. On Easter 2016, Tim opened his eyes for the first time.

“Thank you God, we're in the fight now,” Jones said.

And after thousands of hours of therapy and perseverance came immense progress.

“He's talking, he's alert, he pushes harder than anyone you'll ever meet,” Jones said.

That push was motivated by an entire force having his back.

“The morning that Tim was injured, the morning he was actually hurt, he didn't get hurt alone. It was as if 40 members of a police department were out there that day and all took an injury that day. That's how hurt they were,” Jones said.

Which brings us back inside the Park Forest Police Department, and yes, back to that facial hair.

“I was there the morning that Tim was injured... he did more in six minutes than most people do in their entire lives,” said Detective Commander Elliot of the Park Forest Police Department.

The facial hair cause has morphed into something deeply personal -- a scholarship in Tim’s name.

“Timstrong - and that's who we are,” Elliot said.

Officers pulling their money -- and sporting beards -- to help fund a future officer's journey into law enforcement.

“He's still fighting, and just everyday it motivates the rest of us to continue to do what we have to do - as a police department,” said Sergeant Julius Moore of the Park Forest Police Department.

“He's just the shining example of perseverance, faith, and just never quitting,” said Detective JP Garrity of Park Forest PD.

“Every day presents another challenge, but I think now, 2 - 2/12 years later, we're up for the challenge. Bring it on, what's next. What's the next obstacle. Let's get to it, and let's overcome it,” Jones said. “I've learned not to count Tim out on anything, not now. Not after what we've seen.

Students must be a resident of Park Forest and a high school senior to apply – CLICK HERE