'Shop with a Cop' helps kids who've witnessed violent crimes

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Santa may not be in town until next weekend, but for 65 local kids, Christmas came early this year thanks to the men and women of the Cleveland Police Department.

"It's our way of giving it back to the children and showing them that they deserve better than what they have and giving them what they want for Christmas," Cleveland Police Department Detective John Freehoffer said.

The goal is to give kids, who've witnessed terrible tragedies, a day to shine.

"These children have been through things people shouldn't see, you know, most of the children came from our homicide department, sex crimes and domestic crimes," Freehoffer said.

Some kids shopped for toys, while others grabbed games, candy and clothes.

On top of the gifts, families got another surprise when Cleveland Browns wide receiver Sammie Coates stopped by.

"I really can't even imagine what some of these kids have been through, but I know, for me, personal, when I was little I lost my dad at the age of 10, so tragic things hit. People don't know how just coming out to say hey to someone, to make them smile, can change their whole life," he said.

Although the kids have seen terrible things happen, police want them to know they're here to help them through it.

"I hope that they understand that the police are there for them. We're not, you know, against the children, we're not against the people. We're here for the people and we're out here doing our job and protecting and serving the citizens of Cleveland," said Freehoffer.

The kids who were invited to go shopping with officers were referred by detectives who know the children witnessed a violent crime within the last year or so.

Thanks to donations from Target and the Vincent J. Stark Foundation, each child got $200 to spend.

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