Shop with a Hero helps make holidays happy for students

The holidays are getting a lot brighter for a group of students and local first responders, thanks to Shop With a Hero.

Fifty students in need from Lakeville Area Schools partnered up Lakeville police and fire fighters for Shop with a Hero Dec. 13. The program, now in its fourth year, helps students purchase holiday gifts for their family members when otherwise they may not be able to afford to do so.

School Resource Officers Nic Stevens, left, and Thor Howe pose with Lakeville Fire Department mascot Sparky during Shop with a Hero. During the event, Lakeville police officers and firefighters help students in need buy gifts for their families.

School Resource Officers Nic Stevens, left, and Thor Howe pose with Lakeville Fire Department mascot Sparky during Shop with a Hero. During the event, Lakeville police officers and firefighters help students in need buy gifts for their families.

The evening meant the world to students, said Lisa Holien, the district’s student support services coordinator. But Shop With a Hero also helps foster positive relationships between police, firefighters and students.

“For the kids, it means they’re going to be able to honor their families and give to the people they love the most,” Holien said. “For them to be connected to so many adults and see we care just means the world to them.”

Program grows

This is the second year Lakeville North School Resource Officer Nic Stevens has coordinated the program.

“I was hoping to be able to help 20 students,” Stevens said. “Thanks to a very generous family, and other donors, we were able to raise more than $10,000.”

Those donations enabled the Lakeville Public Safety Foundation to purchase gift cards for the students to be able to shop with their heroes.

“We were able to up the amount to $200. A lot of these students come from families with three, four our five kids, and mom, dad and grandma and grandpa often live there,” Stevens said. “This is one night where we can give them a special night, make them happy and show that law enforcement cares about them.”

A Lakeville Police officer smiles as her young partner tries on a holiday head band. Organizers say Shop With a Hero has been beneficial for area first responders, too.

A Lakeville Police officer smiles as her young partner tries on a holiday head band. Organizers say Shop With a Hero has been beneficial for area first responders, too.

With the successful fundraising, organizers realized they needed more first responders to help, said Shanen Corlett, Lakeville Public Safety Foundation’s president. That’s when they decided to invite the Lakeville Fire Department to help out.

“It’s nice to be able to open it up to Shop With a Hero,” Corlett said.

Event meaningful for first responders

Stevens said organizers were grateful for help from the Lakeville Fire Department.

“What’s special about this is this reminds cops – especially the older ones – why they went into law enforcement,” Steven said. “These cops love it too, and the firefighters are going to love it as well.”

Capt. Derrick Gaborski of Lakeville’s Fire Station No. 1 said getting to help the students was moving.

A Lakeville firefighter and police officer help a student select gifts for family members. Shop With a Hero is rewarding for first responders because they say it allows them to serve the community.

A Lakeville firefighter and police officer help a student select gifts for family members. Shop With a Hero is rewarding for first responders because they say it allows them to serve the community.

“It’s very touching to see the student we work with bought clothes for his family,” said Gaborski, who also is a lead special education teacher at Lakeville North High School. “It’s pretty humbling.”

Gaborski said he thinks his fellow firefighters loved the experience and he hopes they will be able to take part in future years.

“It gives us a chance to give back and build relationships with our other brothers and sisters in blue,” Gaborski said.

Holien thanked the countless donors, the Lakeville Police Department, the Lakeville Fire Department, the Lakeville Public Safety Foundation, district volunteers, and Walmart’s Lakeville store for helping make the event so memorable for students.

Organizers say they expect Shop with a Hero will continue in subsequent years.

A young student greets the Lakeville Fire Department mascot as she and her police officer get ready to check out during Shop With a Hero Dec. 13, 2016. This is the first year Lakeville firefighters have taken part in the event.

A young student greets the Lakeville Fire Department mascot as she and her police officer get ready to check out during Shop With a Hero Dec. 13, 2016. This is the first year Lakeville firefighters have taken part in the event.

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