Loudoun's Needy Children Go Shopping With 'Santa Cops'
Thursday, December 13, 2007
At age 11, Pierre Kouam knows that he wants to be a pastor when he grows up. Thanks to the Santa Cop program, he now has a new pair of shoes and a suit to wear to church, as well as new clothes to wear to school.
"I want an outfit that goes with everything," Pierre said Saturday as he hurried into the shoes section of the Target store on Edwards Ferry Road NE in Leesburg.
"Me, too," said his 8-year-old brother, Alain, who was close behind.
The Kouams were among more than 50 Loudoun County children who each enjoyed a $200 shopping spree at Target on Saturday morning as a gift from the Loudoun-Dulles Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
The FOP has been sponsoring the event every year since the lodge opened in 1998. Its 150 members represent a variety of local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies.
Lodge Vice President Ken Fognano helped the Kouams pick out what they wanted at the store. "To me, it's what being a cop is all about," the Loudoun County sheriff's investigator said. "The youth are the most important part of my job."
The FOP worked with county schools to identify children whose families might not be able to afford holiday gifts. FOP members raised money for the event mostly through a letter-writing campaign soliciting donations from local residents.
Jerry Hill, the Kouams' principal at Ball's Bluff Elementary, said the event was an opportunity for some of his students to pick up items they not only want but sorely need.
"Some of these kids have never been shopping like this before," he said. "These kids went straight to the clothes and shoes, to things they need rather than to the entertainment things. They passed the toys to come over here."
Many of them picked up gifts for their siblings. Seven-year-old Karen Alcon had a shopping cart full of toys but said most of them were for her three sisters.
Ten-year-old Thomas Castleberry had his wish list written on a small scrap of paper. He pulled two games off the shelf and carefully placed them in the shopping cart -- one for him, one for his brother -- while Purcellville Police Sgt. Joseph Schroeck kept a tally of the cost.
Mary Hylton, who was at Target with her 9-year-old great-grandson, Austin Cox, said that in addition to providing for the needs of children, the event was an opportunity for children to learn to respect police.