The Wauseon Police Department will again spearhead a countywide effort to bring Christmas to underprivileged children in Fulton County, with the help of local businesses and residents.
With a minor adjustment this year, the 4th Annual Christmas for Kids in Fulton County, a Yuletide shopping spree, will be held Dec. 11 to provide gifts to participating children to guarantee them a bright, fun holiday experience they may not get otherwise. Led by Mike Oehlers, WPD school resource officer, the program is assisted by all county police, fire, and EMS departments, and all county businesses and residents are asked to contribute.
Fifty eligible children will be chosen through applications provided through the county’s seven school districts and Fulton County Job and Family Services. The county’s police departments also contribute through a $50-per-officer fundraising effort. “We’re still trying to come up with something unique,” Oehlers said.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the participating children and their parents will not be offered the traditional McDonald’s breakfast prior to shopping. Oehlers said he is currently negotiating with McDonald’s to, instead, provide food tickets for a free meal afterward.
But at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, the kids will be loaded into first responder vehicles from throughout the county, and ride with lights flashing and sirens sounding to Walmart at 485 E. Airport Hwy. Once there, each child will be presented with a Walmart gift card for a chaperoned shopping spree to purchase gifts of their choosing. Depending on the number of donations and amounts received, Oehlers is aiming for each child to receive one $75-$100 or more gift card to purchase their gifts.
Donations by check can be made out to the Wauseon Fireman’s Association, mailed or delivered to 230 Clinton St., Wauseon, Ohio 43567, Attn: Christmas For Kids In Fulton County. Write “Christmas For Kids In Fulton County” on the memo line of the check. Cash is also accepted. The hope is to raise at least $7,500 to provide children with enough money for several gifts. Oehlers said both businesses and individuals are encouraged to contribute.
Created by former WPD officer John Borcherdt, Christmas for Kids replaced the formerly held Shop With A Cop about five years ago. The name change occurred after the Shop With A Cop title was trademarked and organizations were being charged $200 to use the name.
Oehlers said the children must often be encouraged to spend their gift cards on themselves rather than buy gifts for family members.
“We request that it’s specifically for them. But if they want to grab something for a parent or brother or sister we’re okay with that,” Oehlers said. “If all of the kids in the family are in need we try to accommodate the whole family in the program.”
It’s an emotional time for everyone involved, he added. “It gives kids that don’t have it the opportunity. Everybody can pick the toy of their choosing. Just the joy on their face is worth it. And usually, the officers are ecstatic to help out with this. It’s their way of giving back and a way to get to know the community.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.