A dozen children got to “Shop with a Hero” Wednesday night at Meijer after enjoying a free meal at Burger King.
The annual Warsaw Police Department event helps build relationships between local children in need and the officers while providing the kids with needed clothes, shoes and a Christmas toy or two.
DARE and School Resource Officer Roy Navarro explained, “So what we do every year around the holiday season is, we get a chance to work with each school principal and kind of figure out what kids are in the most need. We take a look at the family situation and we try to give them just a nice holiday.”
The program has been around since 2013. He inherited the program from former WPD officer Doug Light, who retired and now works for the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office.
“But he was able to set up this good working relationship up with Burger King and with Meijer. And they have been gracious enough to donate all the meals, and then Meijer is a big, major contributor to help us put this event on,” Navarro said.
“We love the way this event connects local youth with the law enforcement officers who serve our community,” said Quality Dining Inc. President John C. Firth in a previously provided news release from Burger King. “But it’s also about giving those children an opportunity to have fun and take a break – even if just for one night – from what are often extremely challenging life circumstances.”
Navarro said many people in the community also see a “great need” for the event and contribute financially.
“It’s been a great partnership with the community as well,” he said.
Navarro said WPD tries to give the kids a “little bit extra” so it spends about $160 per kid. “Sometimes it’s been a little bit more, like we’ve been able to do upward of $200, but the first thing we try to do is make sure they have winter coats, boots and then we go to the toy section and they can pick a toy,” he said.
The children are between the ages of 4-12. Many of the kids are in families with multiple kids, some not yet in school. Navarro said they try to keep the families together, so if there’s a sibling that’s 3-4, they also participate in the event.
All the “Shop with a Hero” children are from the Warsaw community. On Tuesday, the Fraternal Order of Police will have its “Shop with a Cop” at Meijer with kids and officers from all over the county.
“The big thing, I think, is that we do this because we love our community. We appreciate the opportunity to protect and serve the citizens of Warsaw, and this is just something we feel like, these kids are going to have a great opportunity to get to know an officer. To see that we’re normal everyday fathers, brothers, dads. We want them to realize we’re here to help, we’re here to serve, and we want to make sure they look at us and have a great memory and a great experience with a police officer,” Navarro said.