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Meijer gives 106 kids a chance to 'Shop with a Hero'

Oxford Firefighter Brandon Murray had lots of fun helping Raven Irwin, a first-grader at Clear Lake Elementary, shop in Meijer’s toy aisle. (click for larger version)
December 19, 2012 - On a daily basis, they fight fires, catch bad guys and rescue people, but police officers and firefighters never seem to be more heroic than when they're helping kids in need have the merriest Christmas possible.

On Dec. 13, local public safety personnel joined forces with the Oxford Meijer store to play Santa Claus to 106 deserving children from Oxford, Addison, Orion and Brandon as part of the "Shop with a Hero" program.

Each child was given a $150 gift card to spend however they wanted and escorted through the store by one of the brave heroes in uniform.

Heroes came from the Oxford Fire Department, Oxford Village Police Department, Oakland County Sheriff's Department, Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance, Lake Orion Village Police, Orion Township Fire Department, Brandon Township Fire Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation Troy Office, the 1775th U.S. Army Military Police (Pontiac), Sylvan Lake Police Department and one U.S. Marine.

The kids were smiling ear-to-ear as they bought Christmas gifts for themselves, parents and siblings. As can be expected, the toy aisles experienced the heaviest amount of shopping traffic.

Prior to their shopping experience, the kids were treated to a delicious free dinner that was donated by the 24th Street Sports Tavern in downtown Oxford. After the shopping was done, Meijer gave the family of each child a holiday meal to take home and enjoy. It consisted of a large frozen turkey and sides such as vegetables and potatoes. As it's done in the past, the Oakland County Credit Union made a monetary donation to the event.

The seven kids who shopped with Oxford firefighters got an added bonus. Each child received an extra $50 to spend while shopping at Meijer. Plus, the family of each child was given $300 in nonperishable food items, along with a $200 gift card to be spent on perishable groceries and another $150 gift card for any siblings who didn't get to shop with a hero.

All this was made possible by the Oxford Firefighters Association and the two-day boot drive it held, which raised $3,632.

This money allowed the firefighters to aid four Oxford families. "It feels good to help them," said Jeff Stephens, a paid-on-call firefighter who's been coordinating the association's program for the last three years.

"It's overwhelming when you're bringing all the food in (to their homes) because (the families) don't expect it. They don't know anything about it going into it. There's usually a lot of tears and a loss for words. It's an amazing feeling."

Kids who shopped with the Oxford firefighters received another special treat – they got to ride to and from Meijer in a real live fire truck. "It's the only time of the year that any civilians get to ride in the fire trucks," Stephens said. "That's a unique thing we get to do."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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