JOHNSTON, Iowa -- This year Santa is trading in his red coat for a blue uniform. The Johnston Police Department is in the fourth year of its Blue Dragon Program. The event pairs around 30 less fortunate children, or children who have experienced a tragic incident, with a Johnston police officer to shop for gifts at the Grimes Walmart.
Sgt. Grandon at Johnston PD said as amazing as this program is, it’s only one time a year. These children still face challenges all year long.
“The holidays can be taxing sometimes. But one of the things to remember is that you know, we do this around the holidays but it is a year-round thing. And it's always good to remember that with the kids you're dealing with, reach out, give them that support network that they need,” Sgt. Grandon said.
That’s exactly what the city of Johnston does. When asked how Johnston PD chooses which children to support, Sgt. Grandon said it’s really a matter of the Johnston community being attentive to the youth. He said though Johnston is growing, community members still support these efforts like a small town by always lending a helping hand when asked.
“One of the things about being in the community is that sometimes you just recognize the need, you recognize that trauma or we sometimes get referrals from the community too. So it's a combination. It's kind of a community effort there,” Sgt. Grandon said.
Sgt. Grandon expressed that this is one of the highlights in his year as a police officer. He explains that people might not always have the greatest encounter with the police or be familiar with officers in their area. That's why the Blue Dragon Program is the perfect event to help the youth of Johnston be more comfortable with law enforcement.
“This is one of the opportunities we get to go out and have a real positive interaction with the community. Not every time that when somebody sees a police officer, it's going to be a positive interaction,” Sgt. Grandon said. “So this is one of our opportunities to go out there and just kind of put faces behind the badges and have that interaction with the community.”
The Johnston Police Department collects money for this event all year with high points of donations in late November and early December. Here's how you can donate to the Blue Dragon Program:
- Mail a check payable to Johnston Police Department, Attn: Blue Dragon Program, 6373 Merle Hay Road, Johnston, IA 50131
- Drop-off a check: Checks can be dropped off between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Johnston Public Safety Building, 6373 Merle Hay Road.
- Donate using Venmo: @Blue-Dragons