Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner said it is heartwarming knowing the 24 children involved with the annual program care more about buying gifts for their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers than for themselves. And, armed with $150 each, it would be easy for children to buy something they wanted.
“This is one of the events I look most forward to,” Elsner said. “Every year, in the six years this has been happening, the children want to shop for their family first. It's really humbling. These kids get it. They don't have a lot to begin with, and they are thinking of other before themselves.”
Pat and Mario's provided breakfast for all the children and police officers, while Target covered the taxes for all purchases, and a number of businesses kicked in funds to make the event another success. Most of the funding for $150 gift cards comes from the Chief's Youth Initiative Fund.
Sgt. Joanne Pendrak, who, along with Sgt. Marj Jeffery, has been organizing the event since Day 1, said Sudbury's Shopping with Cops event stems from a smaller, similar program from Sault Ste. Marie.
“I started looking into it, and aside from Sault Ste. Marie, I couldn't find any other city doing something like this,” she said. “Every community has kids that deserve a break, and Sudbury is no different. This is about making their lives just a little bit happier, and to make that positive connection between them and the police — that goes a long way.”
These are children who otherwise might not have the opportunity to go shopping for their family at Christmas, she said. But, the ultimate goal is to build that bond between the children and the officers so, hopefully, it will help them make positive life decisions in the future.
“We wish we could pull every kid out of the woodwork and give them this opportunity, but we have 24, and that's 24 more children who will be happy at Christmas,” she said.
Every kid also walked away with a new backpack filled with such items as chocolate bars, police souvenirs and movie passes.