NEW ULM - Fifteen selected children from around Brown County shopped with Heroes on Saturday at the Target Store in New Ulm.
The Shop With A Hero program went off despite the bitterly cold temperatures Saturday morning. Santa arrived on a New Ulm Fire Department's fire truck with the sirens sounding and lights flashing. The children were surprised to see and hear "Ho! Ho! Ho!" as he walked into the store. The children's faces lit up and smiled and the whole group joined in singing some Christmas carols.
The heroes were police officers from New Ulm, Springfield, Minnesota State Patrol and Brown County Sheriff's Office. Fire fighters from New Ulm and Springfield Fire Departments and National Guard soldiers from the Red Bull Unit of New Ulm joined in on the fun.
Madisyn of New Ulm shops with her Hero, New Ulm Police Department Officer Charles Rasche, during the “Shop with a Hero” outing at Target on Saturday. Madisyn just received a bicycle from the program, however she was about to go shopping for her family with a $100 Target Gift card.
The Shop With A Hero program was created in 1999 by Corporal Julie Duehring, New Ulm Police Department, as a way to break barriers that some children may have toward law enforcement officers with a holiday shopping spree. The children ranged in age from 5 to 12 years old.
The Heroes and the children had breakfast, then had a buddy photo taken. Santa visited with each of the children. The children were given Christmas stockings filled with toys, bicycle lock and bicycle helmet. Santa then led the children to another part of the store to a row of waiting bicycles tagged with each child's name. The children gleefully ran to individual bicycles. Their smiles and excitement put everyone in the holiday spirit.
The children received $100 Target gift cards to shop for their families. The parents were asked to provide a shopping list to help make the shopping a little easier. The children and their Hero buddy took off shopping. Once the items were chosen they were gift wrapped by volunteers and later taken home at the conclusion of the program.
The money for the program was raised by grants from Target and 3M as well as donations from area organizations like New Ulm Autofest Club and private donations. Target is a strong supporter of the program providing their store, staff, supplies and assistance making it a success.
"This program has become a community event from the Heroes, donations, volunteers, venue, area businesses to the child resources in making the Shop With A Hero a successful program!" said Duehring.
This program has given 245 children over the past 14 years a brighter Christmas and has made some lasting friendships with their heroes. Several parents have expressed that the program has really helped their child to be less fearful of a police officer.
The Heroes look forward to signing up each year. Newcomers this year were the Springfield Fire Department and several heroes expressed that they will come again next year.