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Burbank police spread holiday cheer with shopping spree for youths

Thirty antler-clad youths made their way through Target at the Empire Center on Wednesday, filling shopping carts with everyday items such as blankets and towels to more playful fare like toy cars and LEGO sets.

The children were able to go on the holiday shopping trip thanks to the Burbank Police Department’s annual “Heroes and Helpers” event, where each child was given a $100 gift card to the store and partnered with an officer to help them hunt down gifts to purchase.

Sgt. Derek Green, a Burbank Police spokesman, said the department has been holding the event since 1990, and it is “meant to give these kids and their families a little extra help this holiday season.”

This year, Target was able to donate $3,000 toward the event.

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The children were chosen on the basis of financial need by the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley.

During the shopping spree, 13-year-old Jessica Kalde was quickly scanning through a list of items she was hoping to buy with her gift card.

She already had a Hot Wheels play set in her cart for her brother and was hoping to get an art kit for herself.

She said she had a list because her brother was also shopping as part of the event and didn’t want to duplicate efforts at buying gifts for their family.

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“I can’t trust him in the store on his own,” she said.

In the jewelry section, 10-year-old Rachel Quintanilla was trying to figure out what to buy for her older sister.

Her cart already had a purse for her mom and a doll for a friend.

“Maybe a necklace,” she said.

Over the past several years, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse said he has marveled at how children’s attitudes have changed when they take part in the event — from buying items just for themselves to also thinking of others.

He said it’s been gratifying to see them pick out gifts for their friends, family and even teachers.

“Now it has really just become a part of the culture that kids understand, this is not just for them,” LaChasse said.

“They have the ability to contribute to a good holiday experience for other people as well — so it’s a win-win situation,” he added.

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LaChasse said the event couldn’t happen without the support of the Burbank community, including nonprofit groups, service organizations and local businesses.

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