Sunday, April 21, 2024

More than a gift

Staff Writer | December 7, 2020 1:08 AM

Every child deserves to open a present on Christmas Day, and thanks to regional law enforcement, 125 kids and their families had those gifts and more.

For the 22nd year in a row, 12 public safety agencies made dreams come true through the Holidays and Heroes' event. Each family received food and gifts.

Usually, the all-day event is hosted at the Greyhound Park & Event Center in Post Falls, with crafts, food, Santa photo-ops, and children spending one-on-one time with law enforcement.

This year, to be cautious of COVID-19, officers delivered presents to families' doorsteps on Sunday.

But it's not just about gifts. Children who participated in the program were chosen by councilors, teachers, law enforcement and school resource officers.

Often children and their families are struggling financially or don't have positive experiences with law enforcement, said PFPD communications director Charlene Holbrook. This program tries to change that.

"If 10 years from now the children have a run-in with an officer for something negative, it could be turned into a positive situation because now they can at least relate to law enforcement," Holbrook said.

It takes about $325 to sponsor gifts for each family, Holbrook said, and another $8,000 or $9,000 to purchase two crates of food. Families this year received two turkeys and other staples thanks to the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort and the Police and Fire Memorial Fund.

"This year and last year are the first time we've not had to turn away a family," PFPD Chief Pat Knight said. "That is huge. There is nothing worse than having to say we don't have any more funding, that we can't help any more families."

Holidays & Heroes is funded through donations. For the last two years, the program has averaged about $25,000 in donations, including over $5,000 from Findlay Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, $5,800 from Ground Force Worldwide, significant amounts from the Arrotta family which owns the Midway Hyundai dealership, local banks, and grants from Walmart.

"You're taking a child shopping that's coming from a tough time in their life. When you look at their list, they want toothpaste, bed sheets, pillow covers, or a pillow because they don't have it," Knight said. "It's amazing to take a child who is so small, and you expect them to say 'I want' but instead they say 'that's what mum would want' or 'dad would want.'"

Participating agencies were Post Falls, Rathdrum, Spirit Lake and Coeur d'Alene police, Coeur d'Alene Tribal Police, Idaho State Police, Kootenai County Fire & Rescue, Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, Life Flight Network, Spokane County Sheriff's Department and Probation & Parole.