On Friday, police cruisers from Overland Park, Merriam, Shawnee and Lenexa pulled up to 15 Shawnee Mission School District Elementaries and took a total of 27 students to the south Overland Park Target. There, each student received a gift card worth $300 to spend on holiday gifts for themselves and their families.
The annual Operation Rudolph event, put on through a partnership between the police departments, the Johnson County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #11, has helped make the holidays a little brighter for some area students in need for seven years now.
Principals at the Shawnee Mission elementaries help identify students who may benefit from the assistance. And while shopping is a big part of the fun for the kids, it doesn’t end there. After the trip to Target, the students head over to the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center where they hand over the presents they’ve bought to be wrapped. There, they get to decorate cookies for their families and visit Santa. Each student also receives a gift basket with all the parts of a holiday meal, including a turkey.
All of the students who participated are enrolled in the federal government’s free and reduced lunch programs.