MONTVILLE TWP. — Lt. Matt Neil of the Montville Township Police Department has participated in the annual Medina Shop with a Cop every year since the program started five years ago.
The event is as much fun for him as for the children he’s helping — and it’s evident by the excitement he expressed.
“This is an absolutely fantastic program,” Neil said. “The kids are not only buying gifts for themselves but for their siblings and parents.
“It’s the season for giving, and to see these kids buying gifts for others — these are the things we cherish,” he said.
Neil was among about 60 police officers from 13 law enforcement agencies taking part in this year’s Medina Shop with a Cop on Saturday at Blue Heron Event Center on Blue Heron Trace.
About 140 children enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the center, where they played and dined with police officers. In between meals, children rode in police vehicles to Walmart on Pearl Road in Medina Township, where each was given a $125 gift card to shop for Christmas.
Santa also made an appearance, arriving at the center in a Cleveland Clinic medical helicopter. He mingled with police and children while Christmas music played over the loudspeakers.
Montville police Officer Brett Robertson, the organizer for Medina Shop with a Cop, said one of the purposes of the program is to build positive relationships between police and children in the community. Police want kids to see them as friends who can help them.
Robertson helped establish Medina Shop with a Cop five years ago.
“A group of us got together and realized Medina didn’t have a Shop with a Cop, and we wanted to make it happen,” Robertson said.
Medina police Officer Erica Anderson said she has been involved in Shop with a Cop for three straight years — the same length of time she’s been a police officer.
“There are not a lot of female cops out there, and they like to pair the girls in Shop with a Cop with a female officer,” Anderson said.
In addition to Montville Township and Medina, participating law enforcement agencies came from Brunswick; Brunswick Hills; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Hinckley; Lodi; Medina County Sheriff’s Office; Medina Township; Ohio Highway Patrol; Seville; Spencer; and University Hospitals.
Also, volunteers from the Medina boys rugby club dished out breakfast and lunch for the kids and police officers.