Kids, cops team up for holiday shopping

Kids, cops team up for holiday shopping

CHAMPAIGN — Nerf guns. That's what at least two of Richard and Mahogany Lindsey's five children really wanted under their Christmas tree.

"A Nerf gun to get revenge on my dad. Last year, he stole our Nerf guns," said Richard Lindsey, 12, of Champaign.

"I can't wait till I get my Nerf blaster," added Taj Lindsey, 7.

Richard, Taj and their three younger siblings were great shoppers Wednesday night at the Champaign Meijer store, stretching their $150 each to cover both needs and wants. And they even managed a small gift for each parent and still came in within budget.

The Lindseys were among 57 children from 17 families "who have had significant incidents in their lives that have brought them to our attention," said Sgt. Dave Griffet, one of the organizers of the annual Shop with a Cop program sponsored by the Champaign Police Department.

Teamed with officers and assorted helpers carrying calculators, many of the children went first for the underwear, socks, pajamas, shirts and shoes, kind of like eating vegetables.

Then came the dessert — toys and electronics.

"I got a backpack, lunch box, hat and gloves, clothes, a doll and Slime," said Nakaiya Lindsey, 10. "And markers."

Her mother, Mahogany Lindsey, called their selection to participate in the program "a real big deal" for the family.

Afflicted with a manageable form of multiple sclerosis, Mahogany Lindsey works part-time as a lunchroom supervisor at Thomas Paine School in Urbana. Her husband works for Plastic Container Corporation.

"It takes a lot of pressure off me and I can put money back into the family," said the elder Richard Lindsey, grateful for the $750 injection of capital into their budget.

They Lindseys don't know who suggested they be on the receiving end of the police department's generosity. They weren't looking the gift horses in the mouth Wednesday night.

Instead, parents and police were consulting, laughing and trying to gently maneuver the children into making good choices.

Griffet said suggested recipients come from police officers, social service agencies, the medical community and schools.

Now in its 16th year, the shopping event is funded by the officers and local businesses, including host store Meijer, Biggby Coffee, Jet's Pizza and OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, to name a few.

After shopping, the families were treated to a buffet of pizza, chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, vegetables and dip, fruit and cookies. And a visit with Mrs. Claus.

"This is so fun. I feel like a kid again," said Mahogany Lindsey.

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