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Byrnes Mill Shop with a Hero brings joy to local children | Local News

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The Byrnes Mill Shop with a Hero program has provided more than 100 local children in need with Christmas gifts to brighten up their holiday season, Byrnes Mill Police Chief Frank T. Selvaggio said.

For this year’s event, Byrnes Mill police officers and other first responders accompanied the children on a shopping spree at the Walmart store in High Ridge.

For the previous two years, first responders did not take children shopping because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and instead children received Walmart gift certificates, Selvaggio said.

“It was really nice to start shopping first responders with the kids again,” he said. “Just to be there with (the kids), to meet them and be a part of this event, it’s kind of magical in a lot of ways – the connections made between these first responders and the kids as they shop together. ”

First responders from 10 emergency response agencies went shopping with the 104 children on December 7, when each child was able to spend $100 on toys and other items.

“The funny thing is that some kids bring a list,” Selvaggio said. “They already know exactly what they want, and it’s kind of fun to watch them choose exactly what they want.”

Selvaggio said nearly 50 first responders shopped with the kids.

He said the first responders enjoy the event as much as the children.

“(My passion for this event) has to do with some of these families that I’ve come to know over the four years here,” Selvaggio said. “When they come up to you and give you a real hug and say ‘Thank you,’ you can really see in their eyes that you’ve made a difference in their life.”

Each of the children’s families, about 35 families in total, also received food items, Selvaggio said.

“We are also presenting families with a very large basket of items to prepare a holiday meal at home, (with items like) a large ham, vegetables, potatoes, stuffing, desserts (and) things that they can actually do on a night when they can all get together,” he said.

“What we hope to come out of this is that their family can all be together and have a good meal, and, at least for one evening, the parents won’t have to worry about providing and can enjoy their children. ”

Selvaggio said the community came together to help first responders raise about $12,500 for this year’s event.

“I think people are realizing that the only way for us to come together as human beings is to help each other,” Selvaggio said. “They realize their families are going to have a great Christmas, and they want to share that joy with other families.”

Selvaggio said several people have already donated for next year’s event.

He said another act of grace came from some of the children themselves.

“They wanted to buy presents for their siblings, and they wanted to buy a present for mom,” Selvaggio said. “Some of them wanted to buy clothes because they had no winter clothes.”

He said he was particularly touched by these moments as he nears the end of his career.

“It gives me a certain conclusion at the end of my career that this profession can still help the community and still be part of the community,” Selvaggio said. “We’re still able to do our law enforcement work, but we can also do our community guard work, which I think is critical to the survival of law enforcement in this country.”

In addition to the Byrnes Mill Police Department, first responder agencies that participated in the 2022 Shop with a Hero program included Missouri State Highway Patrol, High Ridge Fire Protection District, Jefferson County Ambulance District, Big River Ambulance District , Northwest Jeffco 911 Towing and Shipping.

Three local churches – Spring Hill Presbyterian Church in Byrnes Mill, The Point of Refuge in Byrnes Mill and SpiritWord Church in House Springs – have also contributed to the program.

Selvaggio said Byrnes Mill Police Department administrative assistant Julie Davis was a big help with this year’s program, as were local school resource officers who helped select children to do races.

“We don’t work specifically with school districts, (but) we take calls from school resource officers in schools,” Selvaggio said. “The children we select, we ask them to live in postcodes 63049 or 63051, which are the areas directly affected by the first responders involved.”

The Byrnes Mill Police Department is asking families in need to message them via Facebook if they have any children who could benefit from the program, Selvaggio said.

To donate to next year’s program, checks can be made payable to Spring Hills Presbyterian Church and sent to the Byrnes Mill Police Department at 141 Osage Executive Cir., Byrnes Mill, 63051.

For more information, visit the Byrnes Mill Police Service Facebook page.

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