The 15th Annual Cops and Kids program gave 105 local children a special start to the holiday season Dec. 3 in Sterling.
Sponsored by the Loudoun-Dulles Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #69 (FOP), the event included 450 volunteers from a who’s who of area law enforcement and other groups. They included the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Leesburg, Purcellville and State police, Loudoun Animal Control, Drug Enforcement Agency , Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia Office of the Attorney General, German Armed Forces North American Command, as well as other community groups and a large contingent of retirees from various federal agencies, FOP Vice President Jim Ortwein said.
The event started with breakfast provided by Wegmans, followed by a parade to Target led by Santa Claus, where the children went shopping with volunteers from the FOP.
Each of the children, identified based on need through partnerships with the Loudoun County Public Schools and various civic organizations, were given a budget of $200 to buy whatever they wanted. In addition to the shopping, each child received a new winter coat, hand-knitted winter hat, and books.
“We had a young girl, six or seven, who indicated she wanted to buy her dad a sweater. We dug a little bit and found out that the family had nothing — no clothing, no bedding, etc. We not only took care of the daughter, but we also bought the family a complete set of housewares to see them through,” Ortwein said.
While the kids shopped, their parents, guardians and families had refreshments at Wegmans, participated in raffles featuring gift cards for food, other items and the grand prize, a 60-inch television. Loudoun Hunger Relief, formerly Loudoun Interfaith Relief, also provided families with opportunities to seek food assistance.
The FOP also held a “Pack the Paddy Wagon” food drive at Wegmans featuring the a 1951 police paddy wagon.
Often times the only chance a family, or a child has to interact with law enforcement is in a bad situation, Ortwein said. He characterized the Cops and Kids program as a way to support the local community and give children and their families an opportunity to meet representatives of law enforcement in a friendly atmosphere.
Over the past 15 years, the FOP has assisted more than 1,500 children and their families through the Cops and Kids program. All funding comes from private donations to the FOP. No public funds are involved.