BRADENTON -- Constance Whitfield stood inside Toys 'R' Us in an aisle filled mostly with pink toys Tuesday evening.
The 20-year-old looked down at her 4-year-old daughter, Lindsey White, who held a box containing Cinderella's royal carriage. Beside the little girl stood Kassidy Brewer, a dispatcher for the Bradenton Police Department.
"Cinderella, yes!" cheered Brewer, who had bent over to observe the toy Lindsey chose.
Lindsey was one of an estimated 120 children and their families who attended the eighth annual Honoring the Badge event at 512 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. The event is a partnership between the Bradenton Police Department and Kingdom Life Christian Church.
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Bradenton police officers, detectives, and other employees helped children pick out toys with $25 gift cards made possible through donations. Children were even greeted by Santa Claus before they entered the store.
"It's just a great way to help children that may not get any toys for Christmas," said Bradenton police chaplain Don Sturiano, pastor of Kingdom Life Christian Church. "The added thing is that it builds a rapport between the children in some of the neighborhoods here in Bradenton with the police officers -- to show them that the officers are their friends and want to be a part of their lives. That's why we call it 'Honoring the Badge,' to teach the children to respect and honor law enforcement."
This is Brewer's fourth time participating in Honoring the Badge. Her first time, Brewer said she helped four children choose toys.
"It was something else trying to keep those little ones in one place, but it was fun," she said.
A few minutes into the event, Brewer had already made one observation about the family she was assigned to this year.
"Lindsey is a ball of fire -- all over the place. ... but that's good," she said. "She was afraid of Santa, which is sad but sometimes folks with all this hair on their face, they scare the little babies."
At one end of the store, Bradenton police officer Dalia Santana tried to help 12-year-old Jadarius Hamilton pick a gift.
"I want that dirt bike," he said as he looked over several bicycles, acknowledging it might be over budget. "I don't know. ... This is kids' stuff. ... so I might just stock up on the candy."
Santana stood beside him, smiling. It was the first Honoring the Badge event for the officer, who was sworn in last year.
"It's fun, he's fun," she said. "We were laughing about stuff and trying to pick out what he wants within the budget."
Nearby, Bradenton police Lt. John Affolter found himself with a mother and her four daughters in an aisle dedicated to the wildly popular computer-animated film "Frozen."
Helping the two youngest girls choose toys was easy for Affolter.
"I have three daughters and they all love 'Frozen' -- even my oldest ones do," he said. "It's great to be around the kids and do whatever we can. The church does a great job."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.