Shop with a hero: Parachute first responders take kids shopping for holiday gifts

A Parachute police officer pushes a cart as a child picks out an item at the Walmart in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and emergency service personnel took kids from Parachute on a holiday shopping spree at the Rifle Walmart on Saturday.

Using more than $6,000 donated from businesses throughout the Parachute area, at least 10 kids were given an opportunity to get presents for their family members. Members of the Parachute and Grand Valley fire departments, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and Grand River Health escorted local kids through the aisles.

Standing in the electronics section with a long list of gifts on his mind, Grand Valley Middle School student Andy Quintanilla, 13, said he’s getting presents for his brother and his sister.

“I think it’s going to make them really happy, and it makes me happy to get them stuff that some other families can’t get,” he said. “It’s nice, and I just feel grateful for everything.”

Everyone involved in the effort originally met at the Parachute Police Department at 9 a.m. About a half hour later, a procession of patrol and fire department vehicles rolled into the Walmart parking lot.

Parachute Police Chief Sam Stewart, standing beside a rookie police officer wearing a Santa hat, said the effort materialized after local business owners provided donations and the department put together a list of local families that could use some help during the holiday season.

This year marks the most funds gathered and the most families helped, Stewart said.

“We put that together, and we get our heroes, which are police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, emergency service personnel, hospital workers,” he said. “Then we go shopping for the families.”

Stewart said the kids are also given gift cards to purchase groceries and other necessities.

A Grand Valley firefighter readies gift wrapping for a shop with a hero event in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“It’s great to see that, because that’s what it’s for,” he said. “It’s for the kids. It’s for the families.”

Grand Valley Fire Chief Chris Jackson agreed helping out in this capacity puts a warm feeling in his heart.

“I always love helping out with the community,” he said. “We always look for opportunities to see them in a non-emergent way. So it’s definitely just a good time.”

Jackson stood near a girl who was picking out presents for her family. Toys for siblings and blankets for her parents were just some of the items on the list.

“They have a heart for their family, and they weren’t just coming here for themselves,” Jackson said. “We had to coax her into buying some things for herself.”

Jackson moved to Parachute about 10 years ago. And although some people may overlook the fact that others may experience tough times for the holidays, the need isn’t overlooked in Parachute.

A Parachute Police officer helps a kid pick out items for her family at the Walmart in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“I think that one of the reasons we love this community is because it’s always been that way. It’s always been looking out for other people and taking care of each other,” he said. “And it’s just really refreshing to have something like that. I’ve lived in other places, and that’s not the case.”

Back in the electronics section, Quintanilla did admit he’s still going to treat himself to something special.

“I did get something for myself,” he said. “The new ‘Call of Duty.'”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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