Showcasing mile-wide grins and an abundance of energy, passersby might have thought Christmas came early for 20 local children Wednesday at Meijer in Canton.
They wouldn't be that far off. The children, part of Canton Leisure Services' BLOCK program—Building Leaders Out of Canton's Kids—each received a $100 shopping spree to buy gifts for themselves and loved ones as part of the store's annual Shop With a Hero event.
The outing paired up the children, who come from lower-income households, with Canton Police officers to shop the store for gifts. Meijer Retail Administrative Assistant Sandy Schoenheide said the store also provides each family with a gift basket of cooking materials for a Christmas dinner, as well as a gift card for perishable items, such as a ham or turkey.
The children, though, were there to shop and quickly spread to the store's electronics, clothing and sporting goods sections where they stocked up on the latest video games, attire and gear.
One young child found a new bicycle at a bargain price and proceeded to ride it around the store to finish the rest of his shopping—a pocketwatch and suspenders for his father.
Another teen in the BLOCK program had his heart set on getting a new skateboard, and was able to pair that with a new backpack within his allotted $100 budget.
While video games and electronics were a big hit, many children stocked up on collegiate attire—mostly Michigan State and Michigan—and hygiene products.
Canton Police Sergeant Scott Hughesdon said in addition to helping kids budget their money, the event also helps build a relationship between the children and officers.
"Kids remember us from last year, which is cool," he said. "It helps break down stereotypes (of officers)."
The BLOCK program is open to middle school and high school students ages 11-17 and provides extracurricular activities with peers.
Meghan Miller, BLOCK facility coordinator, said the event helps ensure the children get the Christmas they deserve.
"A lot of these kids are low-income or in areas that aren't the best," she said. "It's an awesome opportunity to go out and shop."