BRADENTON — An estimated 185 children and their families showed up Tuesday for the seventh annual “Honoring the Badge” event, a partnership between the Bradenton Police Department and Kingdom Life Christian Church.
The event pairs employees of BPD with children who may not receive gifts this year. By 6 p.m., a large crowd of excited children and their guardians lined up outside the Toys R’ Us, at 512 Cortez Rd. W. in Bradenton.
Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski stood near the crowd. He was not paired with a child.
“I’m the money man,” he said. “I make sure the bill’s paid at the end of the night.”
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The families were given a green sheet of paper, which served as their golden ticket into the event. Donations from members of Kingdom Life Christian Church and others made the purchase of 200 or so $25 gift cards for the children possible.
“Quite a few of these kids are from the officers’ individual neighborhoods,” Radzilowski said.
The idea behind the event came to Kingdom Life Christian Church Pastor Don Sturiano a few years ago through prayer, he said.
“The benefit would be: 1. You’re getting children a gift that may not get a gift for Christmas;2. It’s a good way to build a rapport and relationships with the community and the police officers — see them in another light. ... and;3. It’s another way for us to demonstrate the love of God,” he said. “So those were three good reasons.”