County Shop with a Hero program keeps growing

County Shop with a Hero program keeps growing

The Wayne County Shop with a Hero program was started five years ago by FOP Lodge 94 President Adam Chellis. In those five years, Chellis has watched the program grow.

The program matches children through Wayne County Children Services with first responders for a morning of holiday shopping to select items from their Santa wish list and shop for their loved ones.

“They begin with breakfast at the Wooster Nazarene Church, and then they are transported to Walmart in a first responder’s vehicle in a motorcade,” Chellis said.

The gifts are then bagged and identified with the child’s name and transported to Wooster Grace Church to be wrapped.

When the participants think the day is done, the heroes have one more surprise in store for the children. Each one is given a bicycle and riding accessories donated by various entities.

“We were able to give all 93 kids a bike,” Chellis said. “To make this event happen, we need to raise about $20,000 this year. It takes a lot of effort, but its impact on the children is worth it. There is a lot of emotions that take place during the shopping trip. Many heroes hear about what that child has been through, which can be heartbreaking. Our heroes come out of the day with a new appreciation and thankfulness.”

While Chellis is authorized to use the popular Shop with a Cop moniker for the event, he has a bigger vision. He expanded the program, and attending the event this year were Wayne County FOP Associates Lodge 53, service members from the U.S. Army, the Ohio Navy, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Explorers, Wayne County Engineer’s Office, The College of Wooster Fighting Scots basketball team and educators from local school districts.

“I wanted to bring the community together,” Chellis said. “There are more heroes in Wayne County than just law enforcement. I wanted to bring in firefighters, EMTs, teachers, military units and medical personnel together as one unit.”

Although the first responders are the heroes, Chellis said the day wouldn’t be possible without the small army of behind-the-scene volunteers.

Planning for next year’s event will begin sometime around June, and Chellis will start the process of assembling his small army of cooks, bike builders, drivers, gift wrappers, donors and heroes to provide another 100 kids with some holiday cheer.

Jackie Wynn has been coordinating the program with Chellis since it began, and she enjoys the hard work of putting the event together and seeing the expression on the kids’ faces.

“The community outpouring gives the kids an opportunity to interact with people that genuinely care about them,” Wynn said. “When someone asks me what it is like, I tell them that it is like being put in a snow globe and tossed around for about four hours, and then boom, you are done. However, it is the most amazing four hours one may spend in helping make some dreams come true for at-risk youth.”

Dan Starcher is a public communications specialist for the Wayne County government.