Naperville Shop With a Cop lets kids with challenges pick toys and maybe some basics
There's a certain childhood joy in going to the grocery store with a grown-up who walks down a snack food aisle and says, "Do you see something you want? Let's get it," say the organizers of the annual Shop With a Cop event hosted by Naperville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42.
It's not a joy that's typically accessible to kids in foster care, group homes or challenging family situations who might not have the money -- or the permissive adult influence -- to feel such snack-choice freedom, said Detective John Reed, who is in charge of the event.
So when 30 to 50 kids each year participate in the holiday shopping event -- complete with $100 to spend at Target and a uniformed officer to accompany them -- snacks and treats almost always make the cart.
"They definitely recognize and take advantage of that," Reed said.
Whether it's iced tea, crackers or something sweet, picking out a fun food is often part of the experience of the charitable event that allows officers to give back each year. So is generosity -- in multiple ways, Reed said.
Children chosen to participate because of a tragedy or financial challenge in their family often "cross shop" for their siblings, each choosing something their brother or sister would enjoy. Kids also go for the practical things.
"In addition to just picking toys, a lot of times, these kids want to buy shampoo or body wash or socks or a nice blanket," Reed said. "Sometimes these kids are living in group homes and don't have much. To a kid who has nothing, $100 is everything."
The festive holiday shop-a-thon is a two-way street, requiring kids and their families to be receptive receivers of the generosity Naperville officers are pleased to offer, Reed said.
"It's something most of us wish we could do every day for people who are struggling in one way or another," Reed said. "They like seeing the officers in a slightly different perspective, and everyone has a great time."
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42 accepts donations throughout the year at its website, http://www.napervillefop.com/ to fund Shop With a Cop and other charitable outreach.