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Wadsworth Hosts Cops and Kids Event



On Saturday, December 3, Wadsworth emergency services aided with the annual Cops and Kids event. Formerly called Shop with a Cop, the police department fundraises to take kids shopping for Christmas gifts. The age range of children that participate is anything from kindergarten to sixth grade. Wadsworth began officially doing this event around 2009. 

“This is our annual event that we do every year to raise money, and then to take the money that we raised to be able to take kids in the community shopping for Christmas,” said Patrol Officer Vivian Feke.

This year, 57 kids signed up to attend the event. 27 came from Wadsworth, 19 from Doylestown, and 11 from Rittman. Gift cards were also given to a couple of middle school and preschool aged kids as well, although they were not at the event. 

“It is an opportunity for cops, firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers, to interact with the community in a really special way,” said Chief of Wadsworth Police Dan Chafin. “So, whether it’s officers meeting these families and these kids, or the school counselors recognizing these kids, these are kids and families that we want to come alongside and help for the holiday season, give them a special Christmas, but also have a chance to interact with kids and families that we don’t get to interact with on a normal basis.”

People who were helping out with the event arrived around 7:30 to eight to prepare. Around nine in the morning, kids were dropped off at Grace Lutheran Church. They were then partnered with a chaperone, such as a police officer, firefighter, dispatcher, paramedic, or any sort of first responder. 

Chaperones were provided with lists of what the kids needed to buy and also what their interests or “Christmas lists” were, to help guide the chaperone while shopping. Chaperones help with keeping track of their kids, finding gifts, and helping the kids try to figure out how to spend their money. 

They were given some time to get to know each other and then were fed a pancake breakfast. Water Main Grille came to the event this year and donated their time to help with providing breakfast to everyone. This is their first year aiding with the event, previously the first responders would cook the meals themselves, with Bob Evans sometimes assisting by donating some sausages. They had pancakes, bacon, and sausage for the kids to eat, with toppings such as blueberries, strawberries, chocolate chips, syrup, whipped cream, and marshmallows for the pancakes. They also had orange juice, water, chocolate milk, hot chocolate, and milk for the kids to drink. While they were eating, Santa and an elf were also there to interact with and greet the children. 

Water Main Grill’s display of toppings for pancakes is laid out on a table. Each kid got a chance to eat before shopping.  Photo by Lezlie Tinney

After around an hour and a half, everyone got in an emergency vehicle and rode up to Target. Kids got to ride in ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, and more on their way there in a lights-and-sirens parade. 

“When people call 911, it’s not because they’re having a good day,” said Chafin. “They don’t want to call 911 because they want to invite us over for dinner, they don’t want to invite us over for Christmas, so usually when we’re interacting with people and families, it’s in bad circumstances. This is an opportunity for us, in really good circumstances, to say ‘Hey, let’s come in, have pancakes, sausage, orange juice, load up in fire trucks, cop cars, SWAT trucks, and go lights and sirens to Target and just have fun, and get to create some relationships.’ That’s what today is.”

Each kid is given a gift card to shop for whatever they want. The amount of money on the gift card depends on how much money is fundraised by each department. Wadsworth, Rittman, Doylestown, and Westfield Center participated this year and each had a different dollar amount. This year, Wadsworth kids were given 250 dollars to spend. 

“We’re really grateful for everybody in the community that’s been willing to help us out,” said Chafin.

The funding comes from all sorts of different things. Officers will sell raffle tickets to family members, neighbors, and people in the community to help raise money. Other organizations and individuals also donate money. 

“I’ve been coming to this since my first year with the department, so this is my twelfth or thirteenth year doing it, and we’ve had kids that have bought clothes, they’ve bought jackets, they’ve bought toys, they’ve bought stuffed animals,” said Chafin. “Anything and everything. It’s basically a free-for-all for Christmas. But I’ll tell you what, some of the most special memories I have are kids coming through and instead of buying things for themselves, they are buying things for their brothers, their sisters, their moms, their dads, and that’s really cool to see.”

A Rittman police officer, Brian Covil, helps a kid pick out her presents with Nicole Covil. People spent around an hour or two shopping for presents and the event was over around noon.  Photo by Alex Banks

Each chaperone is paired with one kid, or sometimes two children that are siblings, so they get to see a variety of things that kids choose to spend their gift cards on. 

“I love seeing the kids get to spend money on themselves, and be able to spend their money,” said Feke. “The kids we take usually don’t have much to be able to spend on themselves or their family, [it’s exciting] because they might get to buy something that they otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to buy…And I’ve done this event for maybe four or five years now and I still have relationships with the kids that I have done this event with years ago. So we keep in touch, I get to see them again, and it’s a really cool way to meet kids in the community.”

When asked what they were most excited for, most kids said buying toys such as Legos, stuffed animals, nerf guns, and action figures.

“[Kids] will buy anything. A lot of times they’re buying gifts for themselves, things that they like, things that they’ve asked for for Christmas, but occasionally you’ll see them buying a little brother or sister a present, or something for Mom or Dad, which is awesome,” said School Resource Officer Dan Shonk. “You get to see their hearts, it’s pretty cool.”

Usually, around 150 to 200 people, including the kids, are at the event. Each kid gets paired with a chaperone, and then spouses and children of the chaperones also sometimes come and help out.

“It’s hard work, it’s a lot of stress, but the day of the event makes it all worth it,” Shonk said.

When the kids left Target, they were happily carrying huge bags of Christmas presents for themselves and their families. 

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Wadsworth Hosts Cops and Kids Event