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CPD hosts Christmas event for local families

December 19, 2018

Columbus Police Department officers served as Santa’s little helpers during the weekend by bringing some holiday cheer to area families.

The CPD hosted its first ever SantaCop event on Saturday at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Community members were invited and got the chance to interact with local law enforcement, grab a free lunch and get some holiday gifts for the kids. SantaCop was put together by Investigator Troy Urkoski and Patrol Officer Alysson Peters, who both unknowingly started work on a holiday event individually before they partnered.

“Both of us had individually decided to do it and then didn’t realize that the other person had also,” Peters said. “So we joined forces and got it going.”

CPD reached out to the Columbus Public Schools for a list of families that were in need of some assistance this holiday season. The program was able to generate gifts for seven families and a total of 14 children, ages 2-10.

Parents submitted a wish list and the officers tried to accommodate them to the best of their ability. Gifts included clothes, jackets, snow boots, Nerf guns, coloring books and art sets. One kid even received a new pair of roller blades. Peters said the children at the event also got a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

“They all seemed pretty shocked,” Peters said of the kids when Santa walked through the door.

A lot of the funds for the event came out of the officer’s own pockets. A total of $1,500 was raised between CPD employees. Peters said some officers even adopted families and footed the entire bill for all of the gifts provided. Urkoski said the goal of the event was to help some local families this holiday season.

“(We) wanted to fill a need,” Urkoski said. “The goal is to identify some families that could benefit from a little extra help over the holidays. “

Peters said the event was also a great opportunity for officers to reach out and get to know community members, especially children.

“I think community outreach, and just getting to know people in the community, giving them a chance to get to know us is pretty important,” Peters said. “It makes us more approachable, especially to kids.”

Organizations that contributed to the event include the Knights of Columbus Hall, Columbus Hy-Vee, Cargill and Back the Blue Auxiliary. Chief of Police Charles Sherer said he appreciated Urkoski and Peters putting the event together.

“I’m proud that these officers took this initiative to give these kids a good Christmas,” Sherer said.

Urkoski said they hope to do this event every year and expand the program to include more families.

“This was kind of a trial run,” Urkoski said. “So if we had the funds, there are a lot more people we could have included. It definitely has room to grow.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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