A Holiday Surprise for Children in Need
WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- Dozens got a glimpse of the holiday spirit Tuesday. They were escorted on a special shopping trip by police officers
"It's hard to put into words how much they've helped and they don't understand how much it means so I'm very grateful for it," said Ashley Gannow.
She's one of many parents breathing a sigh of relief. The single mother wasn't sure how to pull off Christmas for her two children.
"Without it, they wouldn't have a good Christmas," Gannow added.
She's not the only one.
"No more well maybe we'll ask Santa...I work minimum wage so I don't have much to spare. This is a big weight off my shoulders," explained Virginia Horn.
Times are tough.
"Our economy's down and there's a lot of great people in Williamson County and Southern Illinois that don't need a hand out, but a hand up," Karl Gusentine said.
When the event began, smiles and laughter flooded Marion's Walmart. For a couple of hours, 75 children and their parents got a taste of the true holiday spirit, in the form of an unforgettable shopping trip, free of charge.
"This gives a chance for them to bond with police officers and know that we're here to help them," he added.
Gusentine with the Fraternal Order of Police said the hardest part is picking from the hundreds of applicants.
"You'd be surprised on how many kids choose shoes and coats and shirts and outfits and may pick up a toy," Gusentine said.
They're chosen based on need and all the gifts are funded by donations.
"We would like for this program to grow that we can help and not turn anybody away but unfortunately that's not possible right now," he explained.
A reminder that it truly is better to give than receive.
The Cops with Kids Program is an annual tradition. They've already started started raising money for next year as the need for these events continues to soar. You can donate by contacting the Williamson County Fraternal Order of Police.
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