More than 100 enthralled children from the Chester County Family Academy, a K-2 charter school in West Chester, spilled into the Kennett Square Walmart last Saturday to enthusiastic applause and high-fives from employees, shoppers, and a posse of “Shop with the Sheriff” volunteers.
The students, who arrived by bus from the Providence Church in West Chester, had already been treated to a law-enforcement escort, complete with wailing sirens and flashing lights.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, who sits on the school’s board. “It took a school, a store, a sheriff’s office, dozens of businesses, and hundreds of volunteers. It culminated in this glorious day for everyone. We’re so grateful to everyone who helped make this such a success.”
The event depended entirely on donations, from the volunteers’ many hours of preparation to the food offerings of numerous companies. Organizers also collected more than 100 $50 contributions that, along with a corporate match, provided each child with a $100 gift card. Students came to the event with a gift list for family members, prepared with help from their teachers.
Welsh said the importance of the children’s bonds with law enforcement couldn’t be overstated. During the first year, one of the deputies, who also worked part-time as a police officer, responded to a domestic violence call later that same day.
“When he entered the house, he saw a child in the corner wearing a ‘Shop with the Sheriff’ shirt,” Welsh said. “The child waved as they recognized each other. It just touched him, as well as all of us who heard about it. You just never know the kind of circumstances the students return home to.”
Susan Flynn, the academy’s CEO, agreed, explaining that many of the school’s families face numerous challenges.
“This is my Christmas,” she said of the event. “After this, I don’t need anything else; this day puts everything in perspective.”