’Tis the season for cops and kids
Christmas 2018 was special for more than 30 Parkland students thanks to the efforts of Target store employees, Pennsylvania state troopers, South Whitehall, Upper Macungie and Allentown police officers, Lehigh County Sheriff’s deputies, and Dorney Park security officers.
The 33 youngsters who took part in the annual Heroes and Helpers program were treated to lunch at Chickie and Pete’s at Dorney Park, and a shopping spree at Target.
The day began with the students meeting with law enforcement officers at Target and making out shopping lists with items to purchase for family members.
After shopping, the youngsters and officers received help from volunteers wrapping the purchases.
Before leaving Target for lunch at Chickie and Pete’s, the students, officers, Target employees and volunteers gathered outside for a photo.
During lunch, which included chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, cookies and beverages, everyone enjoyed a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, before the students headed back to their schools.
“Our annual Heroes and Helpers program is another way Target teams support and brings joy to their local neighborhoods,” said Tyler Colon, Target executive team leader for asset protection. “Part of the Target and Blue Initiative, the holiday event, similar to Shop with a Cop, are held in many of our stores across the nation each December.”
Target donated $5,000 to the Heroes and Helpers program, and each student received $150 to spend for Christmas gifts for family members.
As South Whitehall Township’s National Night Out was canceled due to bad weather, extra money was placed onto gift cards and the students were encouraged to give out the gift cards as a way to pay it forward, Colon said.
South Whitehall Police Chief Glen Dorney and Upper Macungie Township Police Lt. Pete Nickischer also spoke with The Press.
“South Whitehall police officers are committed to our community, and everyone who participates in this event is touched by the ability to help give back to those students participating in this event,” Dorney said. “Events like these help build bonds with our youth and help us as officers understand them better, while they get to see us as ordinary people who they can talk to and have fun with.”
South Whitehall police who participated included Dorney, Capts. Michael Sorrentino and Jason Negron, Lt. Steve Brown, Sgts. Ron Scholler and Joel Wischner, School Resource Officer Darvin Faust, K-9 handler Colin Beaumont, and Officers Andrew Cikanovich, Joseph Starosta, Andrew Gardo, Haley Snyder, Eric Dotter, Thomas Bammer and Jaryd Winkelbauer.
Police administrative staff Melissa Hudak and Lori Harvey-Borso, South Whitehall township Manager Renee Bickel and Commissioner Christina “Tori” Morgan also took part.
“Special thanks to Melissa Hudak and Ron Scholler for all their hard work that was put into making this happen,” Dorney said. “Target, the Parkland Education Foundation, and Dorney Park were great partners and contributors to the program.
Nickischer said Heroes and Helpers is one of the favorite events for police.
“A great opportunity to spend quality time with Parkland students,” he said. “It’s a feel good event for everyone who participates.”
Upper Macungie had 12 officers participate, including patrol, detectives and command staff.
Allentown Chief of Police Tony Alsleben, Lehigh County Sheriff Joseph Hanna and Trooper Branosky also commented on the event.
“We have a good working partnership with surrounding police departments and are glad to help whenever needed,” Alsleben stated.
Allentown Police Officers Jim Stanko and Luiz Garcia took part in the shopping spree.
“This event is very similar to the event we do call “Shop with a Cop,” Alsleben said. “We take the money raised from ‘No Shave November’ and take around 15 children from our local shelter shopping.
Hanna said this year’s program was terrific.
“Those of us in law enforcement understand we have a much broader commitment to public service than solely as protectors,” he stated.
“Last year, our deputies returned from Heroes and Helpers with a sense of accomplishment knowing they had brought joy to so many youth. This helps promote morale.”
Sheriff’s Deputies Lt. Melissa Vaka, Jordan Anderson and John Nagy represented Hanna’s office.
Branosky said Heroes and Helpers is a great program to allow them to interact with the children during the Christmas season.
“Children get one-on-one attention and we get to explain our jobs and what we do everyday,” he stated, adding Troopers Angel Cruz and Lauryn Ference participated.
Diane Joy Irish, LSW with Parkland School District, also commented.
She said students who participated were chosen for a variety of reasons – some financial in nature, others not.
“The emphasis is on providing a positive interaction with law enforcement for specific students who may benefit from that experience,” Irish said.
Parkland Education Foundation Executive Director Lisa Ervin and school board Director David Kennedy also spoke with The Press.
Ervin said the Parkland Education Foundation donated $1,500 to the Heroes and Helpers program through a Celebrate Innovation grant, and Dave and Elizabeth Kennedy also donated $1,100 through the Education Foundation.
Kennedy said the event is about seeing the kids’ faces at the luncheon and how excited they are with their selections from Target for family members and themselves.
“In all the years I have attended and contributed, I believe this year was the best,” he said. “A special thank you to Dorney Park and the use of their facility and also to all the police departments that participated and individuals that gave up there personal time to make this an extra special holiday season for 33 kids that may not have had a nice Christmas without there help and support.”
Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom Public Relations and Communications Manager Tana Bartek-Korpics commented about participating for the first time.
“Throughout the year we host many charitable and community events here at the park, and we also do many events off-site,” she said. “It was a no-brainer for us to participate in the Heroes and Helpers program when we were approached by the South Whitehall Township Police.“
Dorney’s Chief of Patrol Luis Perez, and Patrol Lt. Christopher Sterner, and staff Kristen Bartholomew, Kristy Bernhard, Amber Hadley, Monica Stofko, Jesse Hixson, Dawn Reidenbach, Candalee Alicea, Christina Lamson, Jonathan Fehnel, Josh Wentz, Kelly Dilbeck, Beth Ann Suarez and Brad Shultz shared special time with the kids.