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Local heros take kids Christmas shopping

Oxford Village Police Sgt. Mike Solwold shops in the toy department with Austin Bishop, 8, of Oxford. Bishop’s a third-grader at Clear Lake Elementary. Shopping behind them are Oxford Village Police Officer Todd Barraco and Ben Freytag, a kindergartner at Daniel Axford Elementary. (click for larger version)
December 16, 2009 - Oxford's Meijer was filled with police officers and firefighters Dec. 9, but they weren't there to bust bad guys or pull anybody out of a burning building.

They were there to make sure these rough economic times don't prevent 52 local kids, ages 3-14, from having Christmas gifts for themselves and their families.

It's called "Shop with a Hero" and the second annual event paired boys and girls from Oxford, Orion, Addison and Brandon with 65 cops and firefighters who took them shopping around the store.

Sponsored by Meijer and the Oakland County Credit Union, each child was given $150 to spend anyway they wished, plus a $20 basket of groceries.

It should be no surprise to anyone that a lot of time was spent excitedly browsing in the toy department.

Prior to their shopping spree, the kids visited with Santa Claus and ate plenty of pizza donated by Jet's Pizza.

Proving their hearts are bigger than their badges were officers from the Oxford and Lake Orion village police department and Oakland County Sheriff's Department along with firefighters from Oxford, Addison, Orion and Brandon.

Representing the U.S. Army National Guard as a "hero shopper" was Specialist Jena Wilmers, who lives in Lake Orion, but works at the Oxford Meijer.

"I just love giving back to the community," she said. "It's also a great opportunity to get some good publicity for the National Guard, which doesn't always get that."

Other shopping heroes included Oxford Village Manager Joe Young and Hank Szlenkier, caseworker for Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance.

– Photos and Story by Editor C.J. Carnacchio

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