FOP to host 64th Christmas party

Nearly 200 special needs students to get gifts, interact with officers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Christmas Party is happening Wednesday, giving the chance for hundreds of kids to be given toys by police officers.

For 64 years they've held this party for children with special needs.

Volunteers have been getting ready for the party, many who have been volunteering for years, some as many as 20 and 30 years. They say it's the smiles on the children's faces that keep them coming back.

This year nearly 200 children will be  at the fairgrounds. They'll get a gift, but more importantly, one on one time with officers.

They're adding the finishing touches at the fairgrounds, taking extra time and care to make sure this years FOP Children's Christmas party is a special one and they've surely got it down -- this is the 64th annual party.

It's a chance for nearly 200 special needs students to see a side of law enforcement they normally don't.

"In most situations, the only contact that our children have with police are bad situations," Party Chairman Vic Groner said. "Either traffic accidents or somebody's in trouble. And when you come here, nobody's in trouble and the officers just spend the day waiting on the kids."  

That VIP treatment starts even before the students arrive. Their buses are led by a police motorcycle escort.  

Once everyone arrives and gets settled, there's music, singing and then it's time for Santa. That's volunteer Karen Renckley's favorite part.  

"When Santa Clause comes riding in on that police car, it's like crazy in here," Renckley said. "And they can't wait because they get their name called up and they get to go sit on Santa's lap and they get a gift."  

Renckley said it's the smiles on the children's faces that makes all the set up work worthwhile.  

"The kids. The kids are awesome," Renckley said. "Cause a lot of the kids don't get anything. And we are able to go shop for them and pick out that special gift and see their eyes light up when they get it. We just, I don't know, we love it."

Each gift is picked out for the student with their special need in mind.

The students were picked from nine schools in the area, so it's not open to the public. But volunteers say they are excited about making a difference in these students lives.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.