CLEVELAND - An annual tradition brought joy to children who have recently witnessed or been a victim of tragedy. Cleveland police officers treated them to a holiday shopping spree as part of the “Shop with a Cop” program.
About 65 excited children went aisle to aisle, grabbing toys, clothing and electronics Wednesday evening. They were escorted through the Steelyard Commons Target store by Cleveland police officers - a chance to "Shop with a Cop" for the holidays.
"These children have been through things that people shouldn't see. Most of the children came from our homicide department, sex crimes and domestic violence. Some of the children, their family members have been killed, sexually abused, they've witnessed domestic violence," said Cleveland Detective John Freehoffer.
"He wanted to do something nice for Angela and it brought tears to my eyes," said Damon DeFreeze.
Defreeze's 14-year old daughter, Alianna, was murdered in January. Her sister Angela says she is grateful detectives have not forgotten her family.
"I think it's a really good idea, I think it's really helpful for children and teenagers who go through stuff," said Angela DeFreeze.
"Losing Alianna was tragic, so to see other kids out here smiling and happy for something, that's what it's all about," said stepmother WyTonya Defreeze.
"I'm gonna get a lot of stuff that's gonna tell me remember him," said Jaivone Harrell.
Robert Harrell, father to 12-year old Jaivone and 17-month old Mason, was shot to death in October.
"This will be the first Christmas without their dad and I think it is really good because you actually have people that's willing to help and donate and care about others," said Mason’s mother.
The kids got a bonus: a visit from Cleveland Browns wide receiver Sammie Coates.
"I really couldn't imagine what some of these kids been through, but I know for me, personal, when I was little, I lost my dad at the age of ten. Tragic things, most people don't know where they can come out and say hey to somebody and to make them smile and change their whole life," Coates said.
“Shop with a Cop” is made possible by donations from Target and the Vincent J. Stark Foundation.