Smiles were an all morning affair recently when members of the Peoria Police Department treated less fortunate local children to a whirlwind adventure, complete with a shopping spree and police vehicle caravan lighting up the city.
The parade started at the Peoria Police Department, 8351 West Cinnabar Ave., where the children were paired with police department employees. Then it was off to Chick-Fil-A, 16657 N. 83rd Ave,, for breakfast, and finally to Kohl’s, 10072 West Happy Valley Road, where they were greeted by Santa Clause and treated to gift shopping for the kids and their families.
Spokesman Brandon Sheffert said this year, as in past years, the Peoria Police Officers Association in partnership with the Peoria Police Department were able to take 50 kids shopping. About 100 Police employees volunteered their time to make the holidays brighter for the kids, he said.
Peoria Police Officers Association Charities raised about $20,000 for the event.
“It was very cool to see how (the kids) really think about what to get their parents and siblings, sometimes even forgetting about themselves,” he said.
But this was just one item on a long list of Peoria’s police and fire-medical departments giving back this year. Throughout the holiday season, the two public safety agencies have been strong stand-ins for the spirit of Santa Clause.
Officer James Cousins, president of the Peoria Police Officers Association Charities, said it is so great to be able to give back to the community this time of year,
“It’s so much fun to see the smiles on the kids faces during the holiday season and probably the highlight of the year for many of the officers and volunteers involved,” he said.
This year, PetSmart has donated more than 1,700 stuffed animals to the police department. The effort started Nov. 11 and continues through Christmas. Customers donate $5 to purchase the stuffed animals that will be donated to local kids.
For more than 20 years, Peoria Firefighters Charities has been collecting toys and hand delivering them to the doorsteps of Peoria families, said Tim Eiden, a spokesman for the Peoria Fire-Medical Department. Last year, members of the group collected nearly 1,000 toys and delivered them to more 250 children.
“With the generous support we have received from the community so far, it looks like we may beat that number this year,” he said.
Toys are collected and sorted by age and gender, then brought to Peoria homes the day before Christmas. A firefighter dressed as Santa and the city’s antique fire truck make the rounds each year to deliver the toys.
“Community involvement is a big part of this toy drive,” said Capt. Danny Comella. “We receive donations from individual donors as well as senior groups, sports clubs, neighborhood groups, scout troops, and over 25 businesses.”
Leading up to the holidays, employees attended events around the city held to help collect toys. This includes the Casa Del Sol and Desert Winds senior communities. Both hold breakfasts in the their honor and collect toys from their residents.
The fire-medical department also receives donations from the USSSA baseball tournament, held at Rio Vista Recreation Center, 8866 W. Thunderbird Road, as well as two high school hockey clubs, and local motorcycle clubs.