OXFORD — With help from Walmart, the City of Oxford Police Division, Miami University Police, Butler County Sheriff’s Department, and Oxford Township Police helped to make the holiday bright for 26 local kids.
The agencies held their annual Cops and Kids event, where officers paired up with kids to shop for holiday gifts on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
To start out the night, all the families and agencies were treated to dinner at Left Field Tavern, owned by Ted Wood. They were then taken to Walmart, where they each had $100 to spend on presents, for both themselves and others. That money was donated by Walmart.
However, when the kids were at dinner, Wood gave every kid a $40 gift card to Walmart. As the kids left the superstore, they were presented with care packages. Those included: a Christmas meal, food, games, flashlights, and other items. Those were purchased from donated money from a Miami student’s father.
While 26 kids were gifted with the $140, it impacted 13 Oxford families who had it a little easier trying to purchase everything for their children this holiday season.
According to City of Oxford Lieutenant Lara Fening, the kids are chosen through recommendations from school districts and different agencies. The lists are then checked against lists of children involved with similar holiday events, like the one put on by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 38, so more children can be helped.
“The thing that sticks out in my mind the most is when you take the kids out on their own, without their parent or their guardian, how they want to go shop for other people. That has left the biggest impact on me, because I think it is so selfless. They don’t have a whole lot, but they don’t necessarily want to buy for themselves. I think that means a lot, that is the meaning of the season, and I think it is a good message for everybody,” Fening said.
“This is another way to reach out to the public to make it personal for us, because we get to know these families personally. There has been plenty of times I have been on the job and approached by someone who was a part of this. It obviously made a huge impact on them when they were a kid.”
City of Oxford Sergeant Benjamin Hool is the organizer for the event. For the past eight years he has been coordinating the activity. It began with him applying for a grant through the Walmart Foundation’s community grant program. He started by volunteering his time to go shopping and then he took over the event eight years ago.
“It is a worthwhile program. A lot of kids don’t have a lot of opportunity and this is a way for us to give back to families in the community and school district,” Hool said. “A lot of the families we know and we have seen the kids in different situations. It also takes the edge off a little bit — when the police show up it is not always a positive interaction, so this is an opportunity to reintroduce ourselves. We’re nothing to be afraid of. We’re people like everybody else.
“This has been a very positive experience for the families. The kids love it,” he said. “Typically we try to get new kids every year. We have a lot of repeat referrals, but we try to break it up so we can spread the experience out among the community as much as we can. We deal with a lot of the worst of people and this is an opportunity to have people appreciate us a little bit.
“It is the opportunity to put a positive spin on what we do and to influence those kids that we may see down the road.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH