October 15, 2018

Purdue Firefighters celebrating 10th year of 'Shop with a Firefighter' program

Members of Purdue University Fire Department and Purdue softball Members of Purdue University Fire Department and the Purdue softball team participate in the 2017 "Shop with a Firefighter" program. (Photo provided) Download image

Purdue University Fire Department and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lafayette are entering their 10th year putting smiles on the faces of area children during the holidays through the "Shop with a Firefighter" program. Donations are being sought from the campus community to make this year's event their biggest to date.

The Shop with a Firefighter program helps children in need by providing a shopping trip to purchase winter clothing and a few wish-list items for the child. PUFD collects donations and holds fundraisers leading up to a shopping trip to an area store, which this year is set for Dec. 8 at Meijer in West Lafayette. Big Brothers Big Sisters, a United Way agency, selects children from its program to participate in Shop with a Firefighter. 

Corey Matricia, a Purdue firefighter, is heading this year’s event and has been with the program since the very beginning. Matricia says Shop with a Firefighter continues to be a rewarding experience for both himself and the rest of the Purdue firefighters. 

 “Seeing the smiles on the faces of these kids is amazing,” Matricia says.“As firefighters, we don't always see people when they’re happy. But when we get to see these kids and see how happy they are, it’s a great feeling.”

In its first year, the event had about $1,000 to work with and served 10 children. Last year, the group was able to buy gifts for 35 children. Fundraising started early this year after Brady Click, a Purdue firefighter, hosted a softball tournament for the cause and raised $1,400. Matricia is hopeful that this might be a record year as far as how many children will get to go on the trip, if fundraising stays on target. 

The annual shopping trip typically looks like this: Each Purdue firefighter, sometimes accompanied by their spouses, takes a child around the store to shop with a set amount of money. Clothing is the first priority -- especially clothes to get them through the winter -- followed by toys. If there is money left over, children are allowed to pick out items for family members.

“I’d say the majority of the kids pick out stuff for their families, and that’s a wonderful, selfless thing to see every year,” Matricia says.

The Purdue softball team also has joined the firefighters the last several years to help children pick out what they need.

Shop with a Firefighter has worked closely with Nine Irish Brothers in West Lafayette since the start of the program. This year, two fundraisers will be held at the restaurant, with the first one taking place today (Oct. 15).

“We’ve always been very grateful for all of the support we’ve received in the area from local businesses such as Nine Irish Brothers and Meijer,” Matricia says. “They’ve been very good to us.”

Matricia wants the Purdue community to know that there is a direct correlation between the money that is raised and the number of children that can be helped each year.

“All of the proceeds we collect goes to the kids,” Matricia says. “The more money we can raise, the more kids we can help.”

How you can help

* Fundraising events will be held at the Nine Irish Brothers in West Lafayette today (Oct. 15) and Nov. 12. The restaurant will donate a portion of the proceeds from noon until midnight on those days.

* Donations can be sent directly to PUFD. Send donations by Nov. 30 to:

Purdue Firefighters
Attn: Shop with a Firefighter
1250 W. Third St.
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Checks should be made payable to Purdue Firefighters.

Purdue United Way Campaign

The Purdue United Way Campaign is currently underway, and fundraising events are taking place across campus until the end of the campaign on Nov. 14. A link to donate and more information about the United Way Campaign can be found on the Purdue United Way website. Questions about the campaign can be directed to Megan Dale, director of Purdue United Way, at unitedway@purdue.edu or 765-494-9240.

Writer: Abbey Nickel, 765-496-1325, nickela@purdue.edu 

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