The Fraternal Order of Police, New River Valley Lodge 21, held their annual “Cops and Kids” Christmas shopping event in early December.
Twenty-seven children and local police officers travelled to the Fairlawn Wal-Mart where they did their Christmas shopping. Radford Transit provided a bus.
After the shopping trip, everyone returned to the lodge to wrap packages, have pizza, interact with the police officers and meet Santa Claus.
“A lot of kids were mature enough, they bought presents, not for themselves, but for their families,” Lee Wensel, FoP Lodge 21 president said.
Officers from Montgomery County Sheriff’s office, Pulaski County Sheriff’s office, Radford City Sheriff’s Office, Christiansburg Police Department, Radford Police Department, Pearisburg Police Department, Alcoholic Beverage Control, Virginia State Police and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries helped the children with their shopping.
Kids came from each of the NRV counties.
For about eight years, Wensel has assembled the police officers, while Karen LaPlante, Children’s Service Act Coordinator for the City of Radford, recognized as ‘Second Elf in Command,’ has collected the children.
“Each year, I contact all the different social services agencies and get about five kids from each county,” LaPlante said.
The kids are between three-years-old and late teens, and that’s an important time according to LaPlante and Wensel.
“Most of these children have a bad relationship with the police. They’re scared of them. This kind of event shows them that the police are their friends. They learn that the police want to help make a difference in their communities,” she said.
Fundraising for the event included a 50-50 raffle, help from the state lodge, and donations from citizens and extra help this year from the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots program.
“We’d like to give special thanks also to Wal-Mart in Fairlawn, Wade’s Foods, Pizza Inn, State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, Karen LaPlante and everyone who donated to Lodge 21 to make this event possible,” Wensel said.