CLEVELAND (WJW) — From fighting crime to finding the right toy, nearly 100 Cleveland Police Officers and new recruits dropped everything Tuesday night for a very special event.
It was the 9th Annual Cleveland Division of Police Shop with a Cop event held at the Target store located inside Steelyard Commons.
This year nearly 100 children and their families were nominated and selected by Cleveland police, because of what they’ve experienced during this past year. Most of them have witnessed or been victims of crimes.
“Some of these kids have seen some terrible things, and you just try to bring them a smile around Christmas time,” said Jeff Folmer, President Cleveland Patrolmen’s Association.
“This was Jeff’s idea when he first became president,” said Detective John Freehoffer, who’s been a part of it since the beginning, “Every year it gets bigger and bigger.”
A donation from the Vincent J. Stark Foundation, with support from Target and the Cleveland Browns, allows each child to get a $200 gift card to spend on whatever they want.
However, just being there together as a family was a blessing for Alexis Compton and Rashawn Branch.
In September their now 3-year-old daughter Raelynn was abducted while strapped in her car seat.
“We were actually carjacked and my daughter kidnapped just days before her third birthday,” said Alexis Comptom, “It’s like your heart is gone, almost like you’re in the car with her and your life stops.”
But Tuesday night the young family was able to shop with the same police officer who tracked down the suspect and rescued Raelynn.
“We just feel blessed,” said Rashawn, “We’re so lucky to have our daughter make it to her third Christmas.”
All of the families were feeling grateful and grinning from ear to ear as they headed home with all of their gifts, but the officers say they’re the ones who are truly thankful.
“This is one of our best events, in fact it’s my favorite event getting out showing support for our community,” said Officer Kwan, "Seeing them smile is so rewarding.”
This year even the children of fallen officer Vu Nguyen even decorated bags of candy for the other kids.
They say having fun and healing are really what the events all about.