Cops with Kids event in Skokie helps 'deserving' kids spread holiday cheer

Left, Anthony Scarpelli, Chief of Police of Skokie, shops Dec. 12, 2015 at the Skokie Walmart (3626 Touhy Ave.) with Valentina Aburukbah, 12, of Chicago and a Skokie/Morton Grove MCC Academy fifth-grader during the Cops with Kids shopping holiday program. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)
Left, Anthony Scarpelli, Chief of Police of Skokie, shops Dec. 12, 2015 at the Skokie Walmart (3626 Touhy Ave.) with Valentina Aburukbah, 12, of Chicago and a Skokie/Morton Grove MCC Academy fifth-grader during the Cops with Kids shopping holiday program. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

Middleton Elementary School of Skokie fourth-grader, who had just finished shopping for his wish list items Dec. 12 at the Walmart in Skokie.

Alex and his shopping chaperon Skokie Deputy Chief of Police Brian Baker referred to the lad’s list while scoping out aisles of the supercenter during the five hour Cops with Kids holiday gift program.

“So excited,” Alex said shyly with a smile at morning checkout.

Cops with Kids, in its second year, is supported by the Skokie Police and sponsored by the Skokie Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 68.

An estimated 25 officers participated with about 30 volunteers who bonded over shopping or wrapping gifts. Volunteers included Skokie Police Explorers Post 300.

“It’s all about the kids, you know, it’s that time of year, all about the kids,” said Skokie police Officer Terrance Alexander, who came up with the idea over lunch in 2014 with fellow Officer Steve Bush.

Principals at 12 schools in Skokie provided the Skokie Police with 76 names of “deserving” students in the first through fifth grades. The kids are then provided with gift cards to use for a holiday shopping spree.

Deserving could mean good grades, outstanding character, compassion, financial need or whatever else a school administrator might recognize to designate a student.

“This Cops with Kids program helps us connect with the children of Skokie and lets them see us in a different environment,” Bush said.

“We’re the good guys and we want them to know that they can trust us to help ensure their safety,” said Bush, who brought his 15-year-old son, Dan, to volunteer.

“I like seeing other people happy,” said Dan, adding Star Wars toys and video games this season are, “really popular.”

Alexander’s son Evan, 10, was also lending a helping hand.

“It’s a good idea,” Evan said, complimenting his father for creating the Cops with Kids program with Bush.

Each participating child could spend a minimum of $125 each.

“I love it, that’s why I volunteer to come in on my day off,” said Shari Diebold of Antioch and Walmart co-manager.

For Valentina Aburukbah, 11, a MCC Academy of Skokie/Morton Grove fifth-grader and her sister Lena Aburukbah, 9, a fourth-grader at MCC, make-up plus arts and crafts items were at the top of the list.

“I’m very excited!” Lena said.

Both girls shopped with chaperon Skokie Chief of Police Anthony Scarpelli.

“It’s a wonderful experience for the children,” Scarpelli said. “It builds relationships with youth in the community and it’s very nice we’re able to do this.”

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