Christmas wishes will come true a little early this year for 12 Leesburg families, thanks to the Leesburg Police Department and the Leesburg R.O.C.K (Recreation Outreach to Community Kids) Program.
Holidays with the Cops is a local program established about five years ago to support families in need.
“The R.O.C.K. program helps us identify the kids in financial need. The parents are told in advance that they have been chosen, but we like to keep it a surprise for the kids until the night of the event,” said Master Police Officer Chris Tidmore of the Leesburg Police Department.
On the evening of the program, the elementary-school age kids are invited to the Leesburg Police Headquarters for dinner, catered and donated by Palio’s Restaurant in Leesburg.
Then the group will head over to Target to shop, with each child assigned to a police officer as a shopping buddy. They receive a $200 Target gift card to use for each child. The officers help them make selections and many kids pick out items not only for themselves, but for their entire family.
“Sometimes they have a hard time coming up with $200 worth of things to buy, sometimes they go over the $200 and the police officers pull out their own money to cover the bill,” Tidmore said.
Betsy Payne, Outreach Program Coordinator for R.O.C.K., said Holidays with the Cops has been a special event for the kids in the R.O.C.K. program.
“Not only are these children able to spend money on whatever they would like, they are spending one on one time with a police officer. Many times the participants purchase gifts for their families and then buy themselves items with whatever money is left over. The families of the kids are always grateful and overwhelmed with the generosity of their community, and the ability to provide for their children a once in a lifetime experience,” Payne said.
At the end of the shopping trip, everyone will return to the police headquarters to wrap the presents for each family. This year they are planning arts and crafts for the kids while they wait for their presents to be wrapped. The presents go home with the kids that night.
Volunteers from Leesburg Police Explorer Post # 1041 and Leesburg Police Citizen Support Team as well as Leesburg Police Department dispatchers and staff will help the children wrap their gifts. Members from the Leesburg National Guard Armory will then help transport all the gifts home for the kids.
The program has several sponsors that help with donations of wrapping paper, desserts, money, stocking stuffers and more. However, the police department is still looking for donations to the program to make sure that they can include as many families as possible.
“We are always trying to expand it every year,” Tidmore added.
Donations to the Holidays With The Cops program are tax deductible and can be made by cash, check or PayPal. Checks should be made out to the “Leesburg Police Citizen Support Team” and can be dropped off or mailed to the Leesburg Police Department at 65 Plaza Street NE, Leesburg, VA 20176 (Attention: MPO Chris Tidmore). To make a donation by PayPal, go towww.paypal.com and send a payment to firstname.lastname@example.org.