By Bob Uphues
For the past two years, Brookfield police officers have grown beards during the month of November to raise money for charity. In 2015 and 2016, police raised money for Special Olympics Illinois and the Make-A-Wish Foundation respectively.
This year, the department partnered with Chicago country radio personality Drew Walker of US 99, who lives in LaGrange Park, to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"He's gotten really friendly with us over the years," said Police Chief James Episcopo of Walker. "He makes sure he knows as many people as he can."
According to Episcopo, Walker jumped at the chance to partner with Brookfield police on the fundraiser. US 99 for years has hosted a two-day radiothon to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Walker promoted the Brookfield fundraiser on the air and social media and also gave the department's effort a shout-out during the radiothon itself in early December.
"I think it helped us raise money," said Episcopo.
Brookfield police collected $2,300 toward the cause. US 99's radiothon also helped out, raising more than $700,000.
A short time after the Bears and Badges fundraiser wrapped up, Brookfield police accompanied local kids in need during the department's annual Shop with a Cop event.
Kids, who are chosen to participate based on economic need, made the annual trek to the Walmart in Hodgkins to buy holiday gifts for their families.
According to Episcopo, police reached out to Brook Park, S.E. Gross, Congress Park, Lincoln, St. Paul Lutheran, Park Junior High and selected 17 students to participate – the largest group since the event started in 2009. The Brookfield Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association is a key partner in pulling off the annual holiday tradition.
Police raised $5,300 for Shop with a Cop in 2017, the largest amount ever raised for it. In addition to providing each child $200 to buy gifts for family members, police also gave each child who participated a $100 gift card to Tischler Finer Foods.
Riverside collects gifts for Sarah's Inn
The village of Riverside's police department for the past dozen years has raised money and has collected gifts for Sarah's Inn, a nonprofit agency that aids women and families who are victims of domestic abuse.
For the past five years, police have focused on collecting holiday gifts for children. Residents and police officers donated more than 160 gifts to the drive, said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
One resident, who chose to remain anonymous, has donated $1,500 in gift cards in each of the past two years, Weitzel said.
"The residents of Riverside are very generous," Weitzel said.