FISHTOWN (WTXF) - Across the area, holiday parties are bringing all kinds of joy. But, at one particular party in Philadelphia, so much more is happening - trust between children and the police officers who serve their neighborhoods.
"A lot of our kids in specific areas in our community, the history with police officers is not always good. They don't always see the positive that police officers do," stated Madeline Neris Negron, with the 26th District Police Advisory Council.
Like it or not, as a long-time community activist in the Kensington and Fishtown sections of the city, Madeline speaks the truth about the challenging relationship between police and some residents. So, whenever they can all come together and get a nice response from a 9-year-old, it makes everyone's day.
"It's so cool, there's this one girl who's a crossing guard and I didn't even recognize her and I said to my friend, 'Oh my gosh, that's her!'" the girl exclaimed.
She's just 9-years-old and excited, but what she's trying to describe is seeing police from her neighborhood in costume at the annual Christmas party that she and nearly 200 other kids got to experience, thanks to the 26th District Police.
"It's very special every year, but this year, we're very excited because every child here will leave with a bike today," said Captain Krista Dahl-Campbell.
If the captain was excited, imagine the reaction of the 9-year-old girl.
"I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' There's a lot of bikes and they're for all of us. I was like, 'Are they for us?'" the 9-year-old girl asked.
And, they were. Santa, Frosty the Snowman, D the Magician and, yes, close to 200 hundred bikes were there for them. The day was about providing a Christmas celebration for kids, some who may not get much of one. But, it was also about much more.
"Bridging that gap where police officers can interact with them and they can see that they're good people. They aren't there to harm them, they are their friend, they can go to them and trust them," said Negron.
This event matters to the officers who work tirelessly planning. They pick up the bikes, food and more. They made it clear that this is how they want to meet and establish relationships with their young residents.
"It really is dual purpose. We get to show the kids that we're here for them and we care and the officers get to have this positive interaction with the community that really makes a lot of their days. It's just a day, but to the kids and the community, the impact lasts much longer," Captain Dahl-Campbell explained.
"Every time they ride their bike, they can say 'Hey! This was done by the Police Department," Negron said.
And, from a child's perspective, mission accomplished, because when she sees the police in her neighborhood, now she'll see a friend.
"I'll be like, 'I saw you at The Fillmore,'" the girl said.
Because they took the time to show they care, for goodness' sake.