Shop with a Hero

BIG RAPIDS  — With the assistance of area police officers and firefighters, children combed the aisles Saturday morning at Meijer in search of the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

A total of 36 children from Osceola County participated in this year’s Shop with a Hero, a program hosted by the Meceola Children’s Council. Members of the Michigan State Police, Reed City Police Department, Reed City Fire Department, Evart Police Department, Evart Fire Department, Hersey Fire Department and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office were on hand to help their assigned shopping buddies.

This year was the third year for the program, which selects kindergarten through fourth grade students from Pine River, Evart, Reed City and Marion school districts, said Rebecca Szpiech, director of the Meceola Children’s Program.

“This is a great way for kids to build positive relationships with the heroes,” Szpiech said. “It’s also helping out the working class families in the area. Overall, this is just a good community building event.”

When the children arrive with their families, they fill out forms stating who they are shopping for and ideas from parents about what gifts siblings and other family members may like. The participants have a $100 Meijer gift card to spend and the presents are wrapped before the kids head home.

“Each family also gets a cart of groceries and a present for the child shopping,” Szpiech added.

With careful thought and consideration, the children would pick out presents, often weighing two options to figure out what a brother or sister might be more excited to find under the Christmas tree.

Trisha Johnson, a member of the Reed City Fire Department, enjoyed helping Ryan Wildey with his shopping.

“It’s so fun,” she said. “I like to see the excitement on all the kids’ faces. It’s such a good experience for them and us.”