Holiday presents will arrive early for a dozen area youths.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CORTLAND -- Twelve local children won't mind being turned over to authorities Saturday morning.
Detective Tom Andrews of the Cortland City Police Department said police officers from Cortland and Bazetta are taking a dozen children on a shopping spree at Toys "R" Us in Niles.
"I'm a hockey fan, and last year I saw that some of the Pittsburgh Penguins took area children on this shopping spree before Christmas, and I thought it looked like a good idea," Andrews said. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 168, made up of officers from Bazetta and Cortland, raised the money, and Andrews now hopes to do the project every year.
Another benefit: Patrol Officer Tom Soltiz of Bazetta said the project will also help children learn that law enforcement officials want to help the community.
"Anything we can do for the children, we should do," Soltiz said.
Andrews said managers at the local toy store agreed to open early so the children and police officers can shop in private.
Each child will be brought to the store around 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning and paired up with a police officer. The child will get to spend $150.
"This program is good because the child can actually choose what toys they want," Andrews said. "If we went and bought toys for them, they may not get that special something they really, really want."
Contacted schools: Andrews said he contacted school officials at Lakeview, Maplewood and Mathews school districts to find children whose families may not be able to afford to buy a lot of toys.
"We contacted Maplewood and Mathews officials because they are close to us and they do not have full-time police departments in their area," Andrews said. "So I thought we would try and help those children, too."
Andrews said the children that were selected are all in elementary school.
"We have kids from kindergarten through fourth grade," Andrews said. "I believe three of the children coming are from the same family and their home caught on fire earlier this year, so things have been tough. We hope this brings a few smiles to their faces."
Andrews said that Santa Claus will also stop at the store Saturday to say hello to the children.
"We want this to be a real special day for them," Andrews said.