Sticky fingers grab red and white candy canes and small stuffed animals at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center on Nov. 29 after they have donated a toy to the Fill the Cruiser Holiday Toy Drive sponsored by the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD).
Corporal James O'Daniel says a woman donated her huge Beanie Bag collection a couple of years ago, and each child who brings a gift tonight goes home with a surprise toy for themselves. The animals are arranged on the trunk of a cruiser as Officer Lillian Hammond helps each child choose their favorite to take home.
Vincenzo, 5 and half years old, and his 4-year-old brother Dominic have brought a backpack and an airplane for the collection.
Annie, 7 and a half years old, and Adrianne, 4 and a half years old, Minkoff say they went to the store and bought a lot of toys and filled two bags. Annie says, "I like to help people." Adrianne volunteers, “You know some people don't even have toys so we got them." And she says, "Look, look I got a penguin."
Meanwhile a car pulls into the busy parking lot and slows down. "They're in the trunk. Don't forget the small one."
"Thank you guys." Police officers carry the bags to the cruiser and pile them on top of the quickly growing stack of dolls, cars, games and stuffed animals.
"Hi mom, happy birthday." Kirby Clark, communications officer for the ACPD, greets her mom and dad who are walking across the parking lot loaded with two bags, one for the older youths with make-up kits, nail polish, etc. and one for the younger children.
Police cars with strobe lights flashing line the street edge of the parking lot. Corporal Beth Lennon says they have a big group of ACPD officers this year including the Community Outreach group, school resource officers and some patrol officers. "We like to have as many involved as possible."
O'Daniel says there is another opportunity to donate toys at the ACPD-sponsored Christmas party at Key Elementary School Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. "I'm playing Santa," he says, "and there is a Magical Toy Room and food, music and a Christmas tree. It's a good time."
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