The widow of slain Tucson police Officer Erik Hite looked for a way to give back to the law enforcement community that rallied around her following her husband's death in 2008.

In searching for ways to help, Nohemy Hite focused on one of the important aspects to her husband - family.

So three years after Erik Hite was shot and killed by a man who led authorities on a crosstown shooting spree, the foundation named in his honor opened a day-care center for law enforcement and military families.

Nohemy Hite opened the center last June after creating the Erik Hite Foundation, which was established to operate the day-care center and provide other outreach programs for those families, she said.

The center is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. to cater to the schedules of personnel who work odd hours and long days. Parents who work for law enforcement agencies, whether commissioned or noncomissioned personnel, can use the center. It's open to federal law enforcement agencies, local fire departments and military families as well.

It is open to children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old, but focuses mostly on infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Hite said parents who work in public safety jobs and the military have unique needs when it comes to day-care services.

The facility is on the east side, but she would not reveal the location because of security issues affecting law enforcement personnel. Information about the facility is circulated in the various public safety agencies and a contact number is available on the foundation's website.

The center uses an active-learning curriculum that encourages children to engage in learning activities, such as reading and identifying colors, as well as developing motor skills, she said.

"Once I lost Erik, I came to the conclusion that there are so many wonderful programs that help law enforcement families and fallen officers' families, but none of these organizations focus on the child-care needs of these families," Hite said.

Hite remembered her own experience as a police officer's wife who had to find child care for their young daughter.

"We didn't have any family in town, so we had to rely on friends or other child-care centers," she said.

Hite first thought of opening the day-care center in 2009.

She began researching online, talking with friends from church and police officers, and visiting other day-care centers to develop a plan.

"This became pretty much my full-time job, working really late hours after putting my daughter to bed," she said.

The Eric Hite Foundation began operating that year as part of the Tucson Police Officers Association before it eventually became a separate nonprofit organization.

The day-care center and the foundation sustains itself through day-care fees, fundraising events and donations.

Capt. Quinn McCarthy was one of the police officers who helped Hite start the day-care center and eventually became a board member for the foundation.

McCarthy, who worked on a squad with Erik Hite, said the center brings peace of mind to police officers with children.

"She's someone who understands the unique environment of law enforcement officers," he said of Nohemy Hite. "It's a unique thing she has done."

The man arrested in the shooting is scheduled to stand trial March 6.

Fundraiser set for March 3

The Erik Hite Foundation will hold its second annual 5K Fun Run and two-mile Family Fun Walk on March 3.

The fun run will start at 8:30 a.m., followed by the walk, which will begin at 8:40 a.m. The event will be held at Reid Park, Ramada 31.

The cost is $20 per person if registered by Feb. 15, $25 after Feb. 15 and $30 on the day of the race.

Checks can be made payable to the Erik Hite Foundation, 9420 E Golf Links Road No. 265, Tucson, Ariz., 85730.

For information, call the foundation at 495-0430 or go to erikhitefoundation.org

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115.