Christmas will be much brighter this year for 50 local children and their families thanks to the annual Cops, Kids and Christmas program, sponsored by the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police.
Law enforcement officers spent about three hours Thursday night helping the children shop for themselves and their loved ones at the Walmart on Whittelsey Boulevard.
“We try to impress upon the kids, Christmas is not just getting presents yourself,” Columbus Police Lt. J.D. Hawk. “It’s giving to others.”
Cops, Kids and Christmas has in the past been called Shop with a Cop. Though its name has changed, the program’s mission remains the same: to spread holiday cheer and give underprivileged members of the community a Christmas they otherwise couldn’t afford.
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The FOP raised more than $7,000 through projects and donations to fund the project, but Hawk said it’s not uncommon for officers to pitch in some of their own money to ensure each wish list is fulfilled.
Children were chosen to participate through referrals from police who met them on the streets during calls, through school teachers and councilors, social agencies and others, Hawk said.
Pint-sized participants were also treated to a ride in a police motorcade, complete with flashing lights and screaming sirens.
It’s an experience that Hawk says shows the children that officers are the good guys.
“It builds relationships,” Hawk said. “And then when they see that car with the lights and sirens going they realize it’s not all bad.”