It was a parade of full stomachs and wide open enthusiasm.
More than 100 children were treated to a Christmas blessing they might not otherwise receive Saturday morning (Dec. 2) during the 16th annual Cops & Kids event sponsored by Fraternal Order of Police Loudoun-Dulles Lodge 69.
After feeding the children breakfast at Wegman’s, a fife and drum corps and Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves led a group up to the hill at Dulles 28 Centre to Target. At that point, the children were paired up with a law enforcement officer from several area jurisdictions and given a gift card worth $200 to spend on themselves and/or their loved ones for holiday gifts. The 175 active and retired volunteers represented Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Leesburg Police Department Middleburg Police Department, Purcellville Police Department, Virginia State Police and several federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Customs Bureau.
“It’s our chance to give back to the community,” said John Ohrnberger, president of FOP Lodge 69. “A lot of us have been in law enforcement for many years, so it is a good time of year when children who are less fortunate can use some help.”
Ohrnberger said FOP raises funds throughout the year to help pay for the holiday blessings. He said the event used to be called Shop with a Cop, but the name was changed after a dispute over a copyright on that name.
“As our lodge was formed in 1999, we started our first Cops and Kids event,” Ohrnberger said. “We take children who are less fortunate in the community shopping with a cop for Christmas items and Christmas gifts for themselves.”
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman was proud of his department’s participation in the event, which he characterized as the largest he has seen in the county.
“This is fantastic,” Chapman said. “Frankly, I don’t think I’ve seen a crowd this big before, between the deputies and the kids. It’s an amazing team effort involving the community, our retail partners, and our law enforcement partners as well. The vast majority of the officers who are not already on duty are volunteering their time.”
The children were selected by Loudoun County Public Schools based on need. In addition to the shopping card, each child received a new winter coat, a hand-knitted winter hat, reading material and some sweet treats.
The FOP’s 1951 Ford Paddy Wagon was on hand at Wegman’s and Target as part of the organization’s Pack the Paddy Wagon food drive.
“They try to identify the kids who will get the most out of this and their families as well,” Chapman said. “It really does help them get a very happy Christmas.”
For more information or to contribute to FOP Lodge 69’s Cops & Kids program, go to vafop.com.