A Connell police officer wants to bring Christmas spirit to some north Franklin County families.
Officer Shane Thorson is seeking the community’s help to adopt three Connell families. Combined, the families have seven children between the ages of 1 month and 16 years.
He is preparing about 30 gift tags on the Christmas tree at Connell City Hall, 104 E. Adams St. The tags list gift ideas for the families.
Thorson, 41, asks residents to pick up the tags and return the gifts in time for them to be delivered at noon Dec. 20.
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“We are depending solely on people willing to buy an extra toy or coat,” he said.
Thorson got the idea for the Christmas in Connell program years ago when he was with the Kennewick Police Department, which has a similar program, he said.
This is the first time Connell has had the Christmas drive. Thorson, who has been with the department for two and a half years, considered helping people for Christmas in 2013, but the department was in transition after the September firing of former Chief Mike Kessler.
Now Chief Chris Turner is in command, and he supports of the program. He said it allows children to see a positive image of police.
“I’m 100 percent for it. I thought it was an excellent program,” Turner said. “It’s a way to show the kids we’re there for them and give them a Christmas.”
Thorson said he hopes it will become a community tradition.
“I’m hoping I can take a lot of lessons learned to make it better for next year,” he said. “But the biggest thing is just getting it started. You build it year after year.”
Thorson left Kennewick police in 2004 because of an illness, but still gives credit to Chief Ken Hohenberg and Cmdr. Trevor White for their leadership.
Thorson was injured in a mortar attack in 2005 in Iraq, where he served as a sniper and scout with Troop F, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, Oregon National Guard, attached to the 18th Airborne Corps. He returned to Iraq in 2009 before leaving military service as a second lieutenant in 2011.
Thorson went to work for the Connell Police Department when he got back from Iraq.
“Police work is still in my blood,” he said.
He also helps out at Connell High School as a substitute teacher and assisting with the football team.
“They know that coaching kids is my passion and realize the kids are probably helping me more than I am helping them,” he said. “It gives me a chance to be part of a team again.”
Thorson played football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The school recently dropped its football program, becoming the first school in college football’s top level to do so since 1995.
Thorson said he hopes Christmas in Connell benefits those who donate as well as those who receive.
“Once you see the appreciation of the family you are giving to, it will drive you to be more involved,” he said. “You just see how excited the kids are and how you are filling a need for them.”