Police, firefighters spread holiday joy for local kids

8th annual PAL party lets more than 100 children shop for Christmas

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Law enforcement officers and firefighters combined forces to make Christmas special for some local children Monday.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department partnered to take more than 100 deserving children shopping for Christmas as part of the eighth annual Police Athletic League Christmas party.

More than 60 homeless children from the Sulzbacher Center went home with toys.

"The sad thing is there is so many children from Sulzbacher who are homeless and children in need and that's why this is such a great event," said Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford. 

Rutherford and JFRD Chief Marty Senterfitt said the party, which also partnered with Gateway Community Services and Walmart, is a great way to give back.

"It's great to let them see a police officer or a fireman in a very friendly light," Senterfitt said. "They learn early on police and firemen can be their friends that they are part of the community."

Santa gave each child a gift when he or she arrived. Then the children were accompanied by a police officer or firefighter to shop for clothes, toys or whatever they wanted using a Walmart gift card.

Jennifer Wiley and her son were all smiles at the Christmas shopping event.

"Very blessed, very blessed, because it's been a hard year for us, and I wasn't very sure how things were going to go for Christmas as it was," Jennifer Wiley said.

"It's cool a lot because I've never had the opportunity to go somewhere with a firefighter or a police officer before," Fontaine Wiley said.

The party relies on donations from the community.

For more information or to support PAL, go to www.jaxpal.com or call 904-854-6580.

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