Shoppers at the Meijer store in Bloomingdale didn't know what to make of all the commotion Saturday morning. With lights and sirens blaring, police and sheriff's vehicles from all over DuPage County turned one by one into the parking lot at about 9:15 a.m.
What was the emergency? Christmas shopping.
Each uniformed officer was paired with one needy child from their community—about 100 in all. Not only did these kids get a thrilling ride, they got to spend the morning shopping for Christmas gifts for their families and themselves.
Each child got $125 to spend, courtesy of donations made to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 109. The DuPage County Sheriff's Office and the DuPage Chiefs of Police Association also help coordinate the Shop with a Cop event.
Elmhurst police brought nine local kids on the shopping spree. Their day began at 7:30 a.m., when they gathered at the Elmhurst Police Station, then they were off to Glen Ellyn's Ackerman Sports & Fitness Center. Officers and children shot some hoops, played volleyball, had a snack, met with Santa and for some daring children, there was a chance to rock climb.
There they also met officers and kids from the other jurisdictions, including Bensenville, Addison, Glen Ellyn, Wood Dale, Oak Brook and the DuPage County Sheriff's Office.
After about an hour in Glen Ellyn, it was off to Meijer in a huge caravan. When they arrived, they filed out of the cars, grabbed shopping carts and fanned out all over the store.
Elmhurst triplets, Sydney, Cody and Sienna Lind were all shopping for each other in different parts of the store.
"I have to hide stuff because my two sisters are here," said Cody, who was shopping with Elmhurst Officer Beltran.
Meanwhile, Sienna was in the toy department shopping with Cmdr. Jim Kveton, and Sydney was in the shoe section with Officer Len Kolpak.
Tony Quarto from the West Chicago Police Department was trying to help Sherry Niyibitanga find two matching pairs of size 12 character boots for her brothers.
"We've got a dilemma," Quarto said. "She's got two brothers, and if they don't get the same thing, they fight. We're working on it."
Officer Ray Munch of the Glen Ellyn Police Department was helping Soka Suliman figure out what size Bears jersey his older brother might wear.
"Is he about my size? Some guys like to wear them bigger," Munch said, holding the jersey up to himself. "He can even wear it over a sweatshirt."
They finally decided a size large would do and headed off to the watch department.
Kitchen gadgets, warm coats, action figures, jewelry—once all the gifts were selected, a team of elves wrapped them and sent the kids on their way.
The annual event goes a long way toward providing positive connections between local police and the community—and in putting a big smile on these kids' faces.
"Over the years, this has been a great, memorable event for kids," said Elmhurst Det. Dave Rivkin, one of the organizers in Elmhurst.