First responders partner with children for holiday shopping spree

(KTUU)
Published: Dec. 22, 2017 at 2:55 PM AKST
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Armed with badges and a budget, dozens of Alaskans enjoyed a holiday shopping spree with a little backup Friday.

Each year, the annual shop with a cop and firefighter program partners children from across Anchorage who live in shelters, with an officer or firefighter to enjoy a holiday shopping spree.

The children are given $125 to spend while shopping for family members and themselves.

A'mar Merino,10, combed dozens of aisles inside the midtown Fred Meyer store, checking items off his Christmas List.

"It makes me feel great that I get to go into my own house and open presents," he said.

For senior patrol officer Sean Keating, the retail tradition has become a staple in his holiday season. "I remember growing up we didn't have a lot. I mean we didn't have running water and Christmas was really special to me and I remember getting together. We may not have had a lot of gifts and I get to put myself in these kids' shoes today and think about just how exciting that is," he said.

Lisa Aquino, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services, which operates the Clare House shelter for women, children and expectant mothers, said the program leaves a lasting impression on the participants. "There's a lot of emergencies that are part of people's lives, especially those that are living in poverty," she said.

"That's something that could be in their lives a lot, having the experience of first responders and having that be really traumatic, so to have that be a really positive interaction, that's all about joy and giving and it's really personal — that's a wonderful gift for a child," Aquino said.

Not only do the kids connect with the first responders, but their gifts are also wrapped and delivered.