The Portage County chapter of the Blue Knights International, a law enforcement motorcycle club, recently raised more than $5,000 to help young students from low-income families purchase new coats, shoes and backpacks for the new school year.
Organizers hope the "Shop with a Cop" program will become an annual program and benefit children county-wide.
"The Blue Knights have done a lot of charity work and public safety programs, and thought Shop with a Cop would be a neat project," said Richard Dolbow, president of the 30-member local Blue Knights chapter and a patrolman for the Bratenahl Police Department. "We raised a lot of money from public support during our fifth annual rock and roll show Aug. 2, and we used it for different charities and still had some left so we thought this would be something different."
With the help of Linda Bogovich, a speech therapist for Kent schools and the five elementary school principals, about 50 students were selected for Saturday's event. They came with their parents or other relatives and were allowed to buy about $100 worth of needed new clothes, shoes and supplies.
"I have four kids myself and ... do whatever I can to get my kids what they need for school," Dolbow said. "I know how hard it is. The majority of the parents we called were so overwhelmed.
"Some just broke down and cried, and some were honest and said they had the basic needs and that we could use the money for someone else," he said. "It really broke my heart and shook me up."
"The Blue Knights have just been wonderful to work with," said Bogovich, who was first contacted by the local chapter, formed in the 1980s, to donate for its charities. "The school principals came up with the list of children and the police officers called and offered the idea of the shopping trip to the parents."
While it was the parents who primarily helped the children try on clothes, law enforcement officials ranging from retired officers to sheriff's deputies were on hand to help and to hand out Blue Knights goodie bags and to fingerprint and photograph the children, should they get lost from their parents in the future.
"This is the first time we get to see our donations at work, and to see a smile on the person's face who benefits from our work," Dolbow said. "The kids were just so excited to get to go shopping with a cop."
The Blue Knights are planning other fund-raising activities, including making the Shop with a Cop program an annual event.
"Next year I would like to see us help 100 kids and would like to see this spread county-wide," he said.
The motorcycle group also intends to team up with the Akron chapter to have a similar shopping experience before Christmas.
Anyone who would like to donate to the group or who has fund-raising
suggestions can write to the Blue Knights, P.O. Box 694, Kent 44240.
Checks may be made payable to Blue Knights Ohio 16.