ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Stateline police officers took a break from fighting crime to get some holiday shopping done. Their shopping partners, area kids with down syndrome.
Mike Dalke is an Assitant Deputy Chief in the Rockford Police Department. He helped organize ‘Holidays and Heroes’ to break down barriers between kids with down-syndrome, and men and women in blue.
“Kids and adults with down syndrome kind of need that little bit of extra help to kind of make that contact with the police, so this is a great step to do that,” Dalke said.
Kids from Down Syndrome awareness center, Gigi’s Playhouse, were paired with local police officers so they can shop for Christmas.
Kristy Smyth and her 3-year-old son Camden came to the event for their second year.
“He’s becoming more vocal about what he likes and dislikes, and all of the sudden he’s decided he likes Spider-Man,” said Smyth. “So we’re going to be looking for Spider-Man toys. And dinosaurs. So we’re on the hunt for those.”
Rockford Police Lieutenant Randy Berke helped Camden find his Spider-Man toy.
Symth said the police do a great job helping the kids.
“They are amazing. They take their time,” Smyth said. “They want to help the kids find the coolest and best toys. They’re so patient. They enjoy it.”
Meijer donated $5,000 so that every child had $100 to spend.
“It’s cool because our participants learn in different ways, and so getting to develop a one-on-one relationship with the officer sometimes develops that sense of trust, and it’s a really neat learning and growing experience for them too,” said Gigi’s Playhouse Executive Director, Karen Carlson.
It’s an experience that can build lasting connections.
“Some of the officers will come up to me and tell me that they actually go to the participant’s birthday parties and do other things outside of this event throughout the year,” said Dalke.
Gigi’s Playhouse is funded entirely through donations.
To donate follow this link.