28 kids showed up with their families to then be paired up with a 'hero' for a shopping spree. 32kids were registered according to Trooper Michelle Magee-Morrison, who helps coordinate the Venango County event.
Each kid got $100 to spend on gifts for their family members. The unique idea of the program is for the kids to be able to have gifts to give, not get gifts for themselves.
"To see the kids so excited to get things for their family, you can't beat it," said Jessica Walters of the Family Service and Children's Aid Society, one of the partners with the local Pennsylvania State Police who sponsor this event. Walters said for sure it is the feel good event of the season for her and the officers, fire and military personnel taking part.
It is also a regional event. Troopers like Heather Kittle (pictured here shopping with ten-year old Anna Osborne,) came down from Erie to help in this community outreach program. One goal is to let kids know that the law enforcement officers and fire personnel are there to help them and not to be afraid of them. Troopers from here will now go to help in Erie and other communities like Titusville and Corry as well.
The Riders Advocating Against Child Abuse (RAACA) helped provide a valuable service to Monday night's effort. Magee-Morrison said they wanted to pitch in and though the event was already funded they offered to help out with gift wrapping.
Funding is provided by the Walmart Gives Foundation as well as several local civic groups and donations from the public. Walters and Magee-Morrison both said that they have had Wal-Mart customers approach them with money to donate after seeing the program in action.
To donate to this yearly effort contact the Family Service and Children's Aid Society. They have a specific fund set up for this each year.