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Published December 13, 2010, 12:00 AM

Kids and cops shop for Christmas

16th annual event helps spread holiday cheer
Who knew Santa’s elves were also police officers and sheriff’s deputies?

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Who knew Santa’s elves were also police officers and sheriff’s deputies?

Twenty-one area children got pre-Christmas shopping sprees Sunday in Fargo, thanks to members of the Red River Valley Fraternal Order of Police.

Looking out over the giddy faces at the registers and wrapping tables at the 13th Avenue South Walmart, Cops N Kids program coordinator Dan Hermann said the event brings joy into kids’ lives.

“Just smiling faces,” he said. “The happy kids, that’s what it boils down to. These kids are happy. I’m happy!”

The 16th annual event paired Fargo police officers and Cass County sheriff’s deputies with children that could use some Christmas cheer, whether because their family has tight finances, a parent deployed in the military, or other tough circumstances.

School counselors helped the FOP identify candidates, said Hermann, a Cass deputy.

Each elementary school-age youngster could spend $75 on toys or other gifts for family, friends or themselves, he said.

“My mommy wanted something really cool, and my daddy wanted a heavyweight thingy,” she Reilly Ricord of West Fargo. She also wondered if she should get something for her grandpa, and “if there’s money left, I’m going to get something for our dogs.”

Her mother, Charlotte Flood, said she and Reilly were both excited.

“It’s been a tough time. I lost my job,” Flood said.

MacKenzie Mullins of Fargo was paired with Fargo Police Det. Shawn Gamradt.

By the end of shopping, she was well-positioned to be on everyone’s nice list.

MacKenzie bought gifts for her mother, father, two brothers and a sister, including books, a bead set and a toy kitchen, thanks to her meticulous list.

“We came in here yesterday. I knew where everything was,” she said.

The shopping went “really good. It was fun,” Gamradt said. “I was pretty impressed that she didn’t get anything for herself.”

Store manager Amey Principe said she has always supported Cops N Kids and similar programs.

“This one is near and dear to our hearts,” Principe said.

Presents were wrapped by volunteers from the Fargo Microsoft campus. Walmart also donated $200 toward the shopping and provided cookies, snacks, hot cider and Hawaiian punch, she said.

Katie Violet, a Cass sheriff’s deputy, was helping Colton and Emma Fiedler fill their cart. The children had just moved from Casselton, N.D., to Valley City, N.D.

“We’ve been going back and forth a bit. And they’ve got a 1-year-old sister” they were shopping for, too, said Violet, who has been part of Cops N Kids for six years.

“It’s a lot of fun. I’ve yet to have a child that’s shy,” she said. “They’re just excited and full of energy.”

Their mother, Rebecca Fiedler, said the children talked about the experience for the rest of the day.

“They had an awesome time,” she said.

After shopping, Hermann said officers and children would finish with lunch at a McDonald’s, donated by the restaurant.

Hermann said such events build a rapport with children and make officers more approachable.

Meanwhile, Reilly chose a waffle maker for her mother, a Barbie and a dolphin pillow for herself, and was still looking for something for her doggies.

Tino Simon, a Cass deputy, was enjoying the first-time experience.

“Usually, I actually try to avoid Christmas shopping,” he says.

That gets Reilly to perk up.

“Why? Usually, Christmas shopping is fun!” she declares.

“This time it is,” he agrees.

Then she buzzes off to finish her shopping.

How to help

  • To donate to Cops N Kids events, send a check to Red River Valley FOP Lodge No. 1, PO Box 962, Fargo, ND 58107.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583