Shoppers at the Meijer store in Bloomingdale didn't know what to make of all the commotion Saturday morning. With lights and sirens blaring, police and sheriff's vehicles from all over DuPage County turned one by one into the parking lot at about 9:15 a.m.
What was the emergency? Christmas shopping.
Each uniformed officer was paired with one needy child from their community—about 100 in all. Not only did these kids get a thrilling ride, they got to spend the morning shopping for Christmas gifts for their families and themselves.
Each child got $125 to spend, courtesy of donations made to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 109. The DuPage County Sheriff's Office and the DuPage Chiefs of Police Association also help coordinate the annual event.
The day began at 8 a.m. in Glen Ellyn at the Ackerman Sports & Fitness Center. Officers and children shot some hoops, played volleyball, had a snack, met with Santa and for some daring children, there was the chance to rock climb.
"The officers really like this kind of interaction with the kids," said Glen Ellyn Deputy Chief Bill Holmer. "It's amazing the amount of kids who show it's not about them, it's often about finding stuff for mom or their sisters or brothers."
Holmer said the child he was paired with wanted to buy a hat and scarf for himself and his brother.
Officers and kids from the other jurisdictions participated in the event, including Bensenville, Addison, Elmhurst, Burr Ridge, Warrenville, Wood Dale, Oak Brook and the DuPage County Sheriff's Office.
After the festivities in Glen Ellyn, the children headed into patrol cars for a ride with officers with whom they were paired. And they set off to Meijer in a huge caravan. Once there, they filed out of the cars, grabbed shopping carts and fanned out all over the store.
Elmhurst triplets, Sydney, Cody and Sienna Lind were all shopping for each other in different parts of the store.
"I have to hide stuff because my two sisters are here," said Cody, who was shopping with Elmhurst Officer Beltran.
Meanwhile, Sienna was in the toy department shopping with Cmdr. Jim Kveton, and Sydney was in the shoe section with Officer Len Kolpak.
Tony Quarto from the West Chicago Police Department was trying to help Sherry Niyibitanga find two matching pairs of size 12 character boots for her brothers.
"We've got a dilemma," Quarto said. "She's got two brothers, and if they don't get the same thing, they fight. We're working on it."
Officer Ray Munch of the Glen Ellyn Police Department was helping Soka Suliman figure out what size Bears jersey his older brother might wear.
"Is he about my size? Some guys like to wear them bigger," Munch said, holding the jersey up to himself. "He can even wear it over a sweatshirt."
They finally decided a size large would do and headed off to the watch department.
Kitchen gadgets, warm coats, action figures, jewelry—once all the gifts were selected, a team of elves wrapped them and sent the kids on their way.
The annual event goes a long way toward providing positive connections between local police and the community—and in putting a big smile on these kids' faces.
"Over the years, this has been a great, memorable event for kids," said Elmhurst Det. Dave Rivkin, one of the organizers in Elmhurst.