Children Christmas shop with area heroes

BIG RAPIDS — Nearly 30 underprivileged Osceola County children saw Christmas come early on Friday during the second annual Shop with a Hero event.

The Michigan State Police organized the annual event a program that partners selected children with police, firefighters or military men and women from Osceola County.

The Big Rapids Meijer hosted the event, and the grateful families and their children who were selected for the program by their school staff were provided with a $100 gift card to use for their purchases.

In addition to the gift card, each youngster was able to shop with a hero from one of the many agencies involved.

Children were encouraged to shop for themselves, family members or friends. Some children even brought shopping lists for each person they were buying gifts for.

"I was excited to hear about this," said 11-year-old Alex Wright. "I have my list to make sure I don't forget anyone."

Wright was shopping for his parents and siblings. Trooper Brock Benavides, who was enjoying taking Wright around the store.

"This is great," Benavides said. "I have fun taking him around the store and helping him with his shopping list. This is a great event for kids."

In addition to the gift card, families of the selected children were provided with groceries and household items, all made possible with a grant from the Osceola County Community Foundation as well as local business support and partnerships with area first responders.

According to Trooper Kimberly Vetter, who helped organize this year's event, the idea of the program is to make the holidays a bit brighter for those in need.

"Having children shop with a local law enforcement officer, firefighter, soldier, EMT or dispatcher allows them to connect with us in a positive way," Vetter said. "They see us in a different light."