NORTH OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – If you’re caught up in the season of giving right now, dozens of Utah’s police and firefighters are too.
Behind the badge, some first responders in Weber County are working to make Christmas special for kids who don’t normally have much to enjoy. They’re giving those kids a day they won’t forget, in this edition of Behind the Badge.
Moments of joy, shopping for toys, hand in hand with kids in need, is a holiday passion project for first responders in Weber County.
“It’s so heartwarming for me to be here and be part of this. I think a lot of us get more out of it than I think the kids do,” said Deputy Fire Chief Shelby Willis, Ogden Fire Dept.
Over the weekend the Weber County Fraternal Order of Police, or F.O.P., organized a small army of police, fire, military, and church volunteers to make a memorable morning for local kids and teenagers, who normally only see the negative side of the law, and don’t have much for Christmas.
“You’re looking at kids who’ve had parents arrested in front of them, you’re looking at kids who’ve been taken away by D.C.F.S. and we’re trying to build a relationship,” said Darick Fisher, President of the Weber County Fraternal Order of Police.
About 85 children, each paired with a responder, got a warm breakfast, bags filled with food, and set out to go Christmas shopping to “Shop with a Hero” in a special police and fire escort, with kids running the lights and sirens.
“What’s the biggest thing you’re most looking forward to today?” Reporter Brian Carlson asked.
“Um, riding inside the ambulance,” said Miguel Aguilar, Box Elder High School student.
“Pretty cool?” Carlson asked.
“Yeah,” said Aguilar.
As their procession pulls up to the Ogden Walmart, what to their wondering eyes should appear, but a helicopter dropping off St. Nick, full of Christmas cheer. The F.O.P. had gathered donations from different charities so each child could spend $150 dollars on Christmas gifts. Of course, that meant picking out toys, and some of the essentials too.
“What do you got?” an ABC4 Photographer asked one child.
“I got some jeans; I got a whole bunch of different colored shirts. I can just match with everything,” they replied.
All rung up and paid for, even wrapped up to go under the tree, without these gifts, and the outpouring of generosity, some families didn’t know what they would’ve done this Christmas.
“It means a lot, especially since I’ve been struggling financially, it means a lot. I’m excited for the kids to get some new toys and stuff,” said Natosha Tanner, mother.
For responders helping make it happen, in some ways their reward is just as great.
“Of all the F.O.P. stuff I do, this is what I do it for,” said Fisher.
The payoff in smiles and new friends, Christmas brought together.
These responders tell ABC4 this one-on-one time with kids like this is something they don’t normally get. When you see the reaction they get from those kids, you can see why they do it year after year.