Everything had gone smoothly Friday for Kiersten Veal-Bradley and her new friend from the Overland Park Police Department, Officer Tina Morse, from being picked up from her school in a squad car to going shopping for Christmas presents at Target.
But when they got back to the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center to wrap the gifts for her family and have a meal together, Veal-Bradley had his observation.
“Don’t let Officer Morse wrap the gift,” the 11-year-old sixth grader from Pawnee Elementary said. “She ripped the paper a bunch of times.”
She then gave her police buddy a big smile.
“We had a great time and spent every penny and covered every family member,” Morse said.
Kiersten was one of 25 kids participating in this year’s Operation Rudolph, a joint venture between the Overland Park police and the Johnson County chapter of the NAACP. This year, police from Lenexa and Merriam also joined in the fun.
Participants were selected by the staff of seven elementary schools in the Shawnee Mission School District.
Each child was picked up from their school by an officer in his or her cruiser, taken to the Target a 12200 Blue Valley Parkway, and had $300 to spend on gifts for their families and themselves.
After shopping, they went to the Tomahawk Center to wrap, eat a meal and then be driven home by their new police friend along with enough food to feed a family of six.
“There’s a substantial amount of need in Northeast Johnson County that goes unseen,” said Sgt. Roger Ware of the Overland Park police. “It’s a good cause. We’ve got guys who worked the midnight shift and then volunteered to come during their usual sleep time.”
There were other volunteers and sponsors to including AIG insurance, Ascension Catholic Parish and Digital Ally.
“What’s heartwarming is, the kids do a lot of shopping for their family,” Ware said.
Kiersten said she bought a Blu-tooth speaker and pajamas for her mom and a robe for her grandmother. As for herself, she got a hat and slippers. And she’ll always remember her ride from school in the police cruiser.
“I was nervous at first, but it was cool,” she said. “I got to sit upfront. When she pressed the siren, you could still hear it even with the windows up.”
Patrick Underwood, a Target manager, said it’s a good cause.
“It’s always great for us to be able to give back to the community and work with community partners,” he said.