Photo by Chris MacCourtney
Sterling Heights Patrol sponsored the Howard family through New Day Foundation for Families’ Holiday Gift Giving Program, which benefits cancer patients and their immediate family.


Photo by Sterling Heights Police Officer Randy Shippy
Sterling Heights Police Officers Jesse Wilson (left) and Erik Kame (right) assist Avrianna (center from left) and Elisa through the Cops and Kids Christmas shopping program.


 By Jennifer Foley, MAP Editor

Sterling Heights Police have spent many years helping needy families during the holidays, but in December 2015 they decided to also reach out to families coping with cancer.

Sterling Heights Det. Ken Mercer said the Michigan Association of Police (MAP) represented department has been active with Cops and Kids, covering the expenses and going shopping with needy children for Christmas presents for the past 17 years. This year over 20 officers participated in that program helping 50 children. The department also provided Christmas gifts to two families through New Day Foundation for Families’ Holiday Gift Giving Program. New Day helps cancer patients and their families who are going through a tough time financially as well as physically and emotionally.

Photo by Chris MacCourtney
Sterling Heights Command Officers sponsored the Greer family through New Day Foundation for Families’ Holiday Gift Giving Program.

The Foundation was started by a woman who lost her husband to cancer and man who lost his wife to cancer. The couple’s deceased spouses had been lifelong friends who both died just six weeks apart from incurable cancers, leaving their spouses to raise five young children. The two later married and Michael Spehn and Gina Kell Spehn’s story of loss and love was featured in the New York Times Best Selling book “The Color of Rain,” which was made into a Hallmark channel movie, which aired for a second time Jan. 18, 2016.

“Crushing expenses, fear andand stress do not discriminate when cancer strikes,” said Josephine Long, Development Director at New Day. “We financially provide, for approximately three months, for core household expenses, but also offer emotional support because every family copes differently. We employ licensed social workers and counselors to better serve our families.”
New Day also helps with the educational needs of the dependent children such as pay-to-participate school activities fees, costs for field trips, school clothing and supplies. This allows the children to focus on their academics by temporarily relieving them from the stresses of home.

“There is also a ripple effect addressing the needs of the community at large as we provide uninterrupted compensation to creditors and local businesses protecting the community from foreclosure, bankruptcy and social service dependents,” Long said. “Each factor is an important issue to the health and well-being of the cancer patient, the family as a whole and the business community. We do not just pay bills. We provide a powerful tool for families to fight cancer and return to normalcy.”

Sterling Heights Patrol and Sterling Heights Command each sponsored a family. Patrol sponsored a 45-year-old wife and mother suffering from colorectal cancer and her family, which includes two teenage daughters. Command sponsored a family of five.

“When families begin with New Day, they are asked if they would like to be included in the Christmas program,” Long said. “If they still need help (after 3 months), there are other cancer organizations we partner with.”

“We did a little research online and it looked like it was a great organization so we decided to help them,” Mercer said. “It just seemed like a small hometown organization that’s just doing wonders.”

Mercer said New Day works with local hospitals to locate families in need. “We didn’t give (New Day) any money,” Mercer said. “We just bought gifts for the families. There are not many administrative costs.”

The officers were able to personally meet the families they helped as they presented them with their gifts at the holiday party in downtown Rochester which featured Santa, cookies and coffee. “(The husband is) unable to work because he’s taking her back and forth to chemo and radiation and she’s unable to work,” Mercer said due to her treatment. “They put together a list of what they need and what they want. We bought a bunch of their need items and one want each. (MAP Executive Board President) Rich (Heins) and I did the shopping and wrapping. Both of them started crying when we gave them the gifts.”

The families took home the wrapped items to be opened on Christmas.

Mercer and other Sterling Heights Police are also active with the Cops and Kids program, which partners officers with children from needy families. The officers take the children shopping, providing them with money to purchase gifts for themselves and their immediate family members. The children also get to have snacks and drinks and visit with Santa. The purpose of the program is to foster positive relationships between youth and officers. Two or more children are assigned to each police officer, who then escorts them around the store and assists in selecting appropriate gifts for each family member.

Photo by Sterling Heights Police Officer Randy Shippy
Sterling Heights Police Det. Ken Mercer and his son, Trent, participated in Cops and Kids program shopping with local youth for Christmas presents with funds provide by the police department.

“This is the 17th year in a row we sponsored Cops and Kids,” Mercer said. “We actually donate $1,500 to offset the cost of Cop and Kids.”

“They get $120 on a Target gift card and they can buy stuff for themselves or their loved ones,” Mercer said. “We ask parents if they need anything first. If they go over (the dollar amount), most of the officers will just chip in a couple extra bucks.”

“A lot of them come from broken homes and they’ve had police contact in a negative light,” said Sterling Heights Sgt. Randy DePriest. “It’s a way to show the kids we’re there to help and to help give back.”

The Sterling Heights Police holiday assistance programs are a family affair. After shopping, the officers’ family members wrap their gifts. “One of the biggest things now is our officers have been doing it so many years, they bring their kids out to participate with them,” DePriest said. “They walk around with the officer and the children. It shows them Christmastime isn’t always about getting, it’s about giving too.”

“I made sure my children are involved,” Mercer said of both programs. “It shows them the importance of giving back to the community and helping others not as fortunate as yourself. I have a nine and five year old. My nine year old wrapped gifts for New Day Foundation and helped Cops and Kids, assisting with the kids shopping and picking out gifts.”