The city’s children, particularly those who’ve seen tough times, have a hero looking out for them – dozens, actually.

They’re the police officers, firefighters and AMT paramedics who will join again next month to make Christmas brighter for the young ones they serve and protect through their annual Shop with a Hero event.

As in previous years, the first responders are inviting citizens and businesses to join their effort by sponsoring a child or donating to the event.

It will take place on Dec. 9, when selected children will take a $100 gift card and their choice of an officer, firefighter or paramedic through the aisles of the BIG R department store in Pekin to shop for Christmas toys or clothes. With Santa Claus also on hand, cookies and pizza will be waiting after the kids’ shopping spree.

“This is one of our favorite events every year,” said police Public Information Officer Billie Ingles. “We love to see the excitement in each child as they shop with our officers. We are excited to once again provide this opportunity, and we are thankful to businesses like BIG R, who have donated money, and opened their store for us this year.”

Last year 53 children took part in the event.

The Police Department, which organizes Shop with a Hero, collects donations from the officers’ and firefighters’ unions, AMT and private businesses, including BIG R, Ingles said.

The responders and school teachers nominate children to participate who’ve been through a traumatic event, been abused, have parents who’ve lost jobs or experienced other difficult issues over the year. Citizens can also sponsor children who they know could use some holiday cheer, Ingles said.

Anyone wishing to sponsor a child or donate in another way can contact Ingles at 478-5312.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin