Naperville's Cops with Kids program is designed to put smiles on the faces of youngsters in need by allowing them to pick out toys, clothes and other presents courtesy of the Naperville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42.
But you didn't have to look very closely Tuesday to see the cops grinning, too, as they felt a gentle little tug on their heartstrings.
It's a familiar feeling for FOP President Vince Clark. "Kids grab food," he said, "because there's nothing in the fridge."
On this day, police officers brought 11 kids to the Super Target on Jefferson Avenue for a quick little shopping excursion as part of a project that used to be known as Shop with a Cop.
The kids, selected by the department's social workers, each could spend up to $150.
Nine-year-old Christiona Blackwell, for example, got some help sizing up a T-shirt and other clothing items from officer Sherry Meine, who's a regular at the event.
"This is just so exciting for the kids," Meine said.
The FOP raises money throughout the year to pay for the shopping spree. In the past, the program was open only to uniformed officers, but now anyone in the department can participate.
Carissa Blackwell of Naperville, whose three children got a chance to check out everything Target has to offer, was hoping her kids would pick some warm clothes. "It's really important to me," she said. "I really appreciate it."
Officer Dan Fisher, chairman of this year's event, admits it usually makes the participating cops every bit as happy as the kids.
"It just means so much to them," he said. "They'll pick gifts for their siblings and family members. Sometimes they don't even pick gifts for themselves. It gets to you."