Target store employees joined police officers from South Whitehall and Upper Macungie townships, the City of Allentown, and the Lehigh County Sheriff’s Office to help make Christmas a little brighter for 33 Parkland students.
The fourth annual Heroes and Helpers shopping spree for the youngsters was designed so they could purchase Christmas presents for their families.
Helping with additional funds and donations at this year’s shopping event and Christmas party Dec. 5, 2017, were the Parkland School District Education Foundation, David M. and Elizabeth Kennedy and Chef Leon Amato with the Woodlawn Fire Company Social Club.
Tyler Colon, executive team leader of assets protection with Target, spoke with The Press.
“Target has always made an effort to form connections with the community,” Colon said. “Target started its ‘Target and BLUE’ in 1990 to form connections with law enforcement.
“Heroes and Helpers is a way to give back to the community of our local students, along with our local law enforcement agencies, and bring them together in a joyous way.”
He said representatives from the South Whitehall Township store heard about the program and decided it was something they should try.
“It went very well, and everyone involved was excited to continue the program and watch it grow,” Colon added.
Target gave the program $2,000 and each student received $150, Colon said.
This was his first time seeing the program in person and he was incredibly happy with the results.
“It was wonderful to see the children open up to their law enforcement partners as they started to shop throughout the morning into their time with Mr. and Mrs. Clause,” Colon said.
“I’m very excited to see the event happen next year and bring joy to more children’s holiday season.”
South Whitehall Police Chief John Christman explained why he and his officers have participated in the Heroes and Helpers program.
“Being a part of a program like this not only benefits the children, it also benefits the police officers,” Christman stated via email. “This is a great opportunity to form positive relationships with the children from our own community.
“It’s these types of community outreach programs that recognize the importance of building trust with law enforcement and help in educating the children to make positive life decisions.”
He said witnessing the excitement on the kids’ faces while they are picking out gifts for their family members makes the event that much more meaningful.
“It’s the true spirit of Christmas,” Christman emailed.
Christman said 14 other police officers from South Whitehall including Capt. Jason Negron, Sgts. Ronald Scholler and Stephen Brown, Officers Darvin Faust, Andrew Cikanovich, Dave Jones, Nicholas Erdo, Andrew Gardo, Kevin Smith, Detective Jerome Cramer, Officers Jason Grozier, Jayrd Winkelbauer, Eric Dotter and K-9 Officer Colin Beaumont and K-9 Kimber participated.
“This year, we also had an officer from Allentown Police Department and two sheriff’s deputies from Lehigh County Sheriff’s Office,” he emailed. “This year’s program went very well. We are very grateful for the opportunity to work with the Target store in our township.”
Christman said anyone interested in sponsoring a student for the 2018 Heroes and Helpers program should contact Melissa Hudak at 610-794-3253 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upper Macungie Township Police Lt. Pete Nickischer emailed The Press about his officers participation in the shopping spree.
Nickischer said Upper Macungie police officers help plan the event with South Whitehall police, the Parkland School District and Target.
“This is truly a heartwarming event our officers look forward to participating in all year long,” he said. “It is rewarding to be able to spend time with children, talk with them about their likes and dislikes, and then help them shop for the people they love.”
“Personally, I feel quite blessed to take part in this fun day.
“I know many of our officers feel the same way.”
He said this year’s program went really well.
“We had a wonderful group of kids who were really appreciative,” Nickischer stated. “Target does such a great job of welcoming our group. It really is an awesome event.”
Nickischer said 13 officers from Upper Macungie, including Chief Edgardo Colón, Deputy Chief Joseph Wilson, Lt. Michael Sitoski, Officer Joshua Santos, Sgt. Dathan Schlegel, Officers Michael Holtz, Robert Djevharian, Timothy Peters, and Phil Shedaker, Detective Adam Miller, Officer William Rohrbach, Staff Sgt. Joseph Geczi and Sgt. Steve Marshall, participated.