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Glendale officers take youths on a holiday shopping spree

From left to right: Sebastien Phillips, Officer Vlad Akopian, Officer Mark Newborg, Police Explorer Fabrizzio Escobar, Kai Gonzalez, Officer Ian Torley and Police Explorer Jimmy Alfaro take part in the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.’s Shop with a Cop event at the Glendale Galleria Target on Friday, Dec. 6.
From left, Sebastien Phillips, Officer Vlad Akopian, Officer Mark Newborg, Police Explorer Fabrizzio Escobar, Kai Gonzalez, Officer Ian Torley and Police Explorer Jimmy Alfaro take part in the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.’s “Shop With a Cop” event in the Target store at the Glendale Galleria this past Friday.
(Courtesy of the Glendale Police Officers Assn.)

Eleven-year-old Sebastien Phillips was scanning through the book section in the Target store at the Glendale Galleria this past Friday on a mission.

He’d received a $200 gift card to spend and was hoping to use part of it to get copies of the Japanese manga “Naruto.”

The fifth-grader from Mark Keppel Elementary said he was a big fan of “Naruto” and even dressed up as the eponymous character for his shopping trip.

“I also have this set-up at home, a computer and a little desk, most everything on there is ‘Naruto,’ ” he said.

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Unable to find any copies of the manga, he turned his attention to an aisle of Funk Pop figurines featuring characters from TV shows and movies like “Stranger Things” and “Star Wars,” looking to see if there was anything he liked.

From left to ht: Carlie Farr, Police Communication Valerie Dunger, Officer Diana Valencia and Police Explorer Valeria Medina take part in the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.’s Shop with a Cop event at the Glendale Galleria Target on Friday, Dec. 6.
From left, Carlie Farr, Police Communication Valerie Dunger, Officer Diana Valencia and Police Explorer Valeria Medina take part in the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.’s “Shop with a Cop” event at the Glendale Galleria Target on Friday, Dec. 6.
(Courtesy of the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.)

Sebastien was one of 16 children who were trying to figure out how to spend gift cards they’d received, thanks to Target and the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.’s “Cops for Kids” program. They were all there as part of the program’s “Shop With a Cop” event, where underprivileged youths in the city are taken on a holiday shopping spree with officers and employees from the Glendale Police Department.

The majority of the funding for the event came from a $3,000 grant provided by Target, while the rest was made up by the association.

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Amy Tate, the program’s coordinator, said the children were chosen in part from nominations by officials at the Glendale Unified School District.

“We have victims of assault, single-parent kids, illness in the family … so we’re just trying to give them all some special love,” she said.
Carlie Farr, 13, was chosen by one of her teachers at Rosemont Middle School. When the eight-grader found out she‘d been selected she said she almost teared up. And not only did she take part in the shopping spree but so did her younger siblings.

“A lot of kids are struggling for the holidays … and they deserve to have what everybody else has,” she said.

Vlad Akopian, who is a school resource officer assigned to Hoover High School, said being able to partner up with the children for the event is just one way officers can have a positive influence on young people.

“It’s also great to put a smile on these kids’ faces and see the wonder in their eyes as they walk through the aisles,” he said. “It’s just a good thing to do.”

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