BRUNSWICK — Dozens of children enjoyed the excitement of Christmas on Saturday at the annual Shop with a Cop event at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 15.
Underprivileged kids enjoyed breakfast and a pizza lunch at the lodge, where they played and dined with officers from 16 Northeast Ohio police departments. In between meals, children rode in police vehicles to Walmart in Strongsville, where each of them was given a $125 gift card to shop for Christmas.
“You would think these kids would buy stuff just for themselves, but they also buy gifts for their mothers, brothers and sisters,” said Brunswick Detective Brian Schmitt, treasurer of the FOP lodge. “They make it about their entire families, and that’s always touching.”
The Brunswick Shop with a Cop is not affiliated with Ohio Cops for Kids, which Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued last week, calling the organization a scam. Schmitt said the Brunswick FOP Lodge Shop with a Cop is independent, involving only officers from Brunswick, Brunswick Hills and Hinckley, along with police from southwest Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Metroparks.
“We raise money for Shop with a Cop by gift-wrapping at Strongsville (SouthPark) Mall, and we have a reverse raffle in the spring,” Schmitt said.
Children in need are identified by social service agencies.
Lora Hitsman, of Middleburg Heights, brought grandson, Jace Mastrangelo, 6, to the lodge Saturday. She had never experienced Shop with a Cop before.
“It was wonderful,” Hitsman said. “Kids are sometimes afraid of cops. This makes them realize that police are here to help people.”
Sgt. Shamus Kelley of Strongsville, who has participated with Shop with a Cop for 17 years, agreed.
“This is a positive interaction between families in the community and the police departments,” Kelley said. “That’s especially important in this day and age, when there seems to be strife and disconnect between police and the public. This provides a chance for kids to see police in a positive light.”
That positive light was all over the children’s faces. Officers playfully handcuffed children to chairs, and children chased officers around the lodge.
Mike Reass, a retired New York City police officer now living in Seven Hills, said the Shop with a Cop kids will always remember this day.
Brunswick Patrolman Brian Mummert, who attended his second Shop with a Cop event Saturday, was amazed at the generosity of the child he accompanied to Walmart.
“He bought gifts for everyone in his family first, and waited until the end to buy something for himself,” he said.
“They will realize that cops are good people,” Mummert said.
Messages may be left for Bob Sandrick at (330) 721-4060.