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Police officers spread holiday cheer at annual ‘Shop with a Cop’ event

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MILFORD – More than 500 children will get a chance to “Shop with a Cop,” this holiday season.

The first night of the program was held in Milford, Tuesday, providing a unique holiday experience for underprivileged children.

At Tuesday’s event, children were paired up with a police officer to go bowling, eat dinner and shop for their families.

Each child was given money to buy gifts for themselves and family members at Target. They were also given money to buy a toy for a child that lives in their paired police officer’s neighborhood.

“I’m really happy, tonight is like the best night of my life right now,” Gavin Elias of Cheshire said. “It’s like no night I’ve ever had before.”

The program was created by The REACH Foundation, a nonprofit created to help children in need whether it be physically, socially or financially.

“The children don’t always have someone at home they can look up to, they could confide in, and it’s important for me in a sense to be able to be that to a child or anybody,” Bridgeport Police Officer Marie Cetti said.

There will be four nights of the event and more than 40 Connecticut Police Departments will participate, including Connecticut State Police.

“It's a great opportunity to get out, meet some kids, create some relationships, and help out the communities,” CSP Trooper Dimitrie Bogiatzopoulos said. “I love helping people out, the reason why I picked this career.”

This is the fifth year for the event.

“We created this during a time such unrest between at risk communities and local law enforcement and it has done wonders for communities in strengthening those relationships,” The Reach Foundation’s Kelly Andrews said.

After shopping, each child was given a goodie bag and a chance to take a picture with their fellow officer and Santa.

“This has been a blast, it's really great to see all these kids, the smiles on their faces,” Wilton Lt. David Hartman said. “It’s been a very rewarding evening.”

The next “Shop with a Cop,” event is in Southington, followed by Enfield and Manchester.