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Shopping spree! Local kids attend special Christmas event with local heroes

Heroes from Wadena Police Department, Wadena County Sheriff's Office, Sebeka Police Department, Wadena Fire Department and Tri-County Hospital Ambulance shopped with kids during a special event last week in Wadena. Submitted photo1 / 3
Wadena Firefighter Brad Ellingworth helped Kama Jackson pick out gifts for his family at Wadena's annual Shop with a Hero event. Anna Erickson/Pioneer Journal2 / 3
Kamaya McMiller shops with EMT Magaen Kveton last week at Walmart during the Shop with a Hero event. Anna Erickson/Pioneer Journal3 / 3

In an annual tradition, Wadena area law enforcement, firefighters and emergency workers spent an evening picking out presents with kids at the Shop with a Hero event last week at Walmart.

"It gives kids an opportunity to spend time with an authority in a positive way instead of just an emergency situation," said Sharon Roberts, secretary/dispatcher for the Wadena Police Department. She helped organize this year's event and recruited volunteers.

The event has been offered in Wadena for many years. It started with the Wadena Fire Department and moved to the Wadena Police Department in 2009. At that time, the name switched to Shop with a Cop. It was later decided to expand the event to include firefighters and emergency workers as well. Often, kids might only see police officers or other emergency workers in a stressful situation or emergency and last week's event presented an opportunity to show the "hero" side.

Wadena County Human Services chooses children for the event and was able to match 22 kids with local heroes this year. Each child comes with a pre-written gift list and is given a budget. Their shopping partners help them stay within budget while finding gifts for each member of their family.

Kama Jackson was assisted by firefighter Brad Ellingworth. They were searching the toy section for the right gift. The evening is enjoyed by both the children and mentors.

"Our goal is to mentor children who will be matched with law enforcement officers, firemen, ambulance and law enforcement dispatchers, jailers and staff members to allow familiarity with individuals in uniform as a friendly approachable person in the community," said Wadena Police Chief Naomi Plautz. "Unfortunately, children may view uniformed public servants personnel in crisis situations in a negative way. This event allows for the children to connect with uniformed personnel in a friendly and safe manner at Walmart."

After completing their shopping, children took their gifts to a wrapping station manned by volunteers. Children also had their photo taken with their shopping partner and Santa.

Donations from Walmart, Wadena Elks, Wadena Lions, WAVE and Central Minnesota Credit Union made this event possible.

Heroes were from Wadena Police Department, Wadena County Sheriff's Office, Sebeka Police Department, Wadena Fire Department and Tri-County Hospital Ambulance. The program includes families from Sebeka, Menahga, Verndale, Wadena and rural Wadena County.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561