The Children's Institute Blog

Local Police To Spread Holiday Cheer

Posted: Dec 12, 2017 by The Children's Institute

When it all started back around 2011, it was just an idea – a kernel of good-will in the Pittsburgh suburb of Aspinwall, Pa.

But, as Presents from Police– a holiday gift drive started by Northern Area Police Departments, which extended to outer-lying municipalities, now enters its seventh year with approximately 20 departments participating, it continues to grow, and is returning to The Children’s Institute for the second time in a row.

“It was thought up over a cup of coffee and some phone calls.”

That’s Millvale Police Officer Michael Vith, who has worked with the drive’s chief engineer – Aspinwall Police Officer David Nemec and Shawn McMinn, also an Aspinwall Police Officer – since the organization’s kick-start to deliver Christmas gifts to children in hospitals.

“I was in my kitchen when [Officer Nemec] called me to discuss the idea,” Officer Vith said. “It started out small. And we’re to a point now where we’re at 20 - 25 participating police departments.”

Officer Vith, a 20-year veteran of the Millvale force, is not exaggerating. Last year, Present from Police filled a large-sized U-Haul box-truck – twice! – and brought 25 police cruisers to deliver toys to The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and The Children’s Institute.

Officers supply a lot of gifts, but so do the group’s supporters and local businesses. Sometimes, police will receive a gift card; that’s when Officer Vith and others officers like him take their own kids out to shop and pick out toys for those who could use a little holiday cheer most.

“We walked into Toys R Us and I said, ‘You have $2,000 in gift card. Go shop!’” Officer Vith said. “They’re literally like kids in a candy store.”

The kids aren’t the only joyous ones. In videos posted to the group’s Web site,, the officers look like they’re filled with the holiday spirit, too. The participating officers said, “This is one of the reasons we became Police Officers, to bring happiness and cheer to others.”

“Having worked with this group and knowing them, they’re absolutely amazing for taking time out of their schedules of protecting and serving,” said Sarah Miedel, The Children’s Institute’s manager of therapeutic activities. “They’re wonderful – I can’t put into words how much we appreciate it.”

Presents from Police will visit The Children’s Institute Thursday and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC next week. They will collect gifts for this year’s drive through Dec. 19.

Donation drop-off points are listed on the group’s Web site. Monetary donations can be made payable and sent to Presents From Police, 840 Grand Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. For further information, e-mail [email protected]

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