December 19, 2018LAPEER COUNTY — While they may not consider themselves heroes, local police, firefighters and EMS personnel dedicate their working lives to protecting and helping the general public.
The importance of their jobs can often be overlooked or taken for granted, leaving these individuals to focus on the personal rewards they enjoy from doing what they do.
In Lapeer County, one of those personal rewards comes from participating in the annual "Shop with a Hero" program, which allows participating police, firefighters and EMS workers to escort a selected child on a Christmas shopping spree at the Lapeer Meijer store.
The community outreach program is sponsored by Meijer and McLaren Lapeer Region Hospital, along with other donors.
On Tuesday, Dec. 11, dozens of local heroes gathered at Meijer for the 22nd Annual Shop with a Hero program, during which 80 youngsters were awarded $100 Meijer gift cards to purchase Christmas gifts for family members or themselves.
Additionally, each participating child was provided a snack bag and presented a "golden ticket," redeemable for a very special gift from Santa Claus.
Among those representing local departments were Imlay Police Chief Scott Pike and Police Sgt. Tim Wolford, who said they enjoy making the yearly sojourn to help make Christmas special for the participating children.
Imlay City Police Chief Scott Pike was happy to allow 11-year-old Windy Burns to monopolize his time during 'Shop with a Hero' event. photo by Tom Wearing.
Pike noted that his special guest, 11-year-old Windy Burns of Imlay City, opted to make purchases for a cousin and other family members before shopping for herself.
Pike added that Windy's shopping spree had to be completed in near record time
"We got here a little early," he said. "Windy is singing in the choir at school — so we have to move quickly and get her back. She does not want to miss the concert."
Sgt. Wolford pointed out it is growing more common for the participating children to first purchase gifts for their family members.
His guest, Loura Jarvi, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, began her purchases with a gift for her four-year-old brother.
"A lot of these kids tend to buy something for others — rather than for themselves," said Wolford. "It's always nice to see that."
Almont Police Officer Ryan Wilson appeared to be having as much fun shopping as his guest, 10-year-old Rhianne Harwood.
That was until the two visited the row featuring toy dinosaurs, where Rhianne's Jurassic World puppet tried to take a bite out of Officer Wilson's face.
Also making the rounds on Tuesday were Imlay City firefighters, Fire Lt. Steve Bildzok, II and firefighters Pat Benson and Clinton Thurlow.
Among those waiting in the line to see Santa Claus with their special guests, were Almont firefighters Dan Howe, Noah Lackowski, Chris Herzog and Hunter Murphy, along with Medical First Responder Shelby Meyers.
Almont Police Chief Andy Martin offered his personal perspective about the event.
"We have been participating in this awesome event since the beginning," said Martin. "It is just as exciting for us as it is to the children.
"It's something we look forward to every year," he continued. "This year Officer Ryan Wilson wanted to represent our department.
Martin added that Officer Wilson donated a food basket and took
the children out to dinner before going shopping.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.