Riley Banks, 8, of Utica, wraps her gifts with help from Utica police officer Frank George, left, and Police Chief Sean Coady during the Shop With A Cop event at Target on Hall Road Dec. 20.

Riley Banks, 8, of Utica, wraps her gifts with help from Utica police officer Frank George, left, and Police Chief Sean Coady during the Shop With A Cop event at Target on Hall Road Dec. 20.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Utica Police assist children with shopping this holiday season

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 20, 2018

 Officer Christopher Bennett helps Aaran Cruz, 6, find some Legos.

Officer Christopher Bennett helps Aaran Cruz, 6, find some Legos.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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UTICA — This Christmas was one to remember for three local children and their families in Utica.

The children had the opportunity to shop with their local police officers Dec. 19 during a Shop with a Cop event set up by the Utica Police Department and the local Target.

In the event’s second year, police officers from the Utica Police Department volunteered to join children in a special Christmas shopping event where the children could pick out any gifts they wanted for their families and for themselves.

Officers from the department each donated $15 and their time toward making a child’s Christmas better. Each child was provided about $100 to spend on the gifts they picked out.

Shop with a Cop began at 7 p.m., and the children met up with their assigned officer, or officers, to help the children decide which presents to pick out for their families and for themselves.

The Utica Police Department took the program under its wing last year and wanted to reach out to families who needed some help with their Christmas presents this year, and they were put in contact with the families.

“It’s nice to know you will be improving some Christmastimes for each one of these kids, and hopefully some good memories too,” said Utica Police Chief Sean Coady.

To help fund the event, Target also contributes each year so that the children can have gifts on Christmas.

Some people who were shopping at the store at the time donated to the program with gift cards when they heard about the event.

Aaron and Aaran Cruz, from Utica, were able to pick out some gifts with two officers and their mom and dad.

Their mother was grateful for what the Utica police were able to do for them out of kindness.

“Every morning, I thank God, because every day, I get surprised on how great it is to be here and how great the people are and support we have gotten from the community,” Vanessa Cruz said, with translation provided by Utica police dispatcher Salvador Paramo. “We can’t explain how much this will make our Christmas, because we don’t have any other family. There is just us, and being part of it, we couldn’t be any happier,” she said.

Officers wrapped the presents at the store so that the children did not have to worry about wrapping them later.

Coady wrapped a few of the gifts that Riley Banks had picked out.

Banks, a third-grader at Flickinger Elementary, said she picked out presents for her mother; her father; her brother, Brendan; her teacher; and herself.

“It was kind of great, and I have tons of gift-giving to do,” she said.

She picked out some candles, Axe body wash and a horse set. She spent the evening shopping with officer Frank George, who also wrapped gifts and said this was the second year he had participated.

“It’s fun to do and it’s great to be able to see what the kids pick out and see their expression when they give it to their family,” said George.

The hope with having the event is to build a more positive feeling for the children with their local officers and to make their Christmas the best it can be.

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