December 18, 2013 - Police officers and firefighters do a lot of brave and valuable work throughout the year serving the communities they're sworn to protect.
Oxford firefighter James Rondy had his hands full helping Aaron Stetson do some toy shopping.
Photos by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
But there's one night when they truly shine as caring and selfless individuals.
That's during the annual "Shop with a Hero" event at the Oxford Meijer.
Last week, local public safety personnel helped play Santa Claus to about 85 deserving children from Oxford, Addison, Orion and Brandon.
Each child received a $150 gift card, some of which were donated by Meijer, to spend on Christmas gifts for themselves, parents and siblings. The smiling kids were proudly escorted through the store by a variety of heroes wearing crisp uniforms and badges of silver and gold.
Heroes came from the Oxford, Addison, Orion and Brandon fire departments, the Oakland County Sheriff's Department, the Oxford and Lake Orion village police departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Troy office and the 1775th U.S. Army Military Police.
Prior to the shopping experience, the kids were treated to a delicious dinner, courtesy of the 24th Street Sports Tavern in downtown Oxford.
After shopping, Meijer gave the family of each child a holiday meal to take home and enjoy. It consisted of turkey, corn, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, sticky buns and fresh fruit.
The nine children who shopped with Oxford firefighters got some added bonuses.
Each child received an extra $75 to shop with while each of their families, a total of four, was given $250 in non-perishable food items, plus a $300 gift card to be spent on perishable groceries.
It should be noted that Meijer gives each department two $150 gift cards for two kids.
The Oxford Firefighters Association paid for the other seven children using funds from the two-day boot drive it held in November.
This year's boot drive raised a little over $10,000, which is amazing considering last year's fund-raiser collected approximately $3,600 and the 2011 effort raised about $4,800.
Kids who shopped with the Oxford firefighters received another treat – they got to ride to and from the store in real fire trucks.
Sure, Santa's sleigh has flying reindeer and jingle bells, but it doesn't have the flashing lights and ear-splitting sirens that kids love.
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.