Pictured above – Amanda Lorenzo, a fourth grader at Burks Elementary, was all smiles.

First responders spread joy in annual Heroes For the Holidays event

Cookeville –  Today, the annual Community Heroes for the Holidays event took place with local first responders walking side-by-side with over 50 students from the Putnam County School System (PCSS) for holiday shopping thanks to funding provided by partners Academy Sports + Outdoors and Nissan of Cookeville

“The Cookeville Police Department began partnering with the local Academy Sports + Outdoors when their store opened in 2018,” said Sgt. Mike Herrick. “That partnership has grown over the last four years. In 2021, the shopping event coincided with National First Responder Day, and Academy Sports + Outdoors approached the department with funds to take local kids shopping, providing $2,000 in gift cards. We began working with school counselors in the PCSS to identify kids who would enjoy this opportunity. This year, we continued the partnership with Academy Sports + Outdoors and the PCSS and were contacted by another corporation with a heart for the same mission.”

Ammira Parker, sophomore at Cookeville High School

Shane Nelson, Academy Sports + Outdoors Store Director, shared that mission.

“This has and will continue to be an annual event for Academy Sports + Outdoors,” said Nelson. “Our store works hard to find ways to give back to the community and to partner with first responders. This event allows us to do that and spread holiday cheer. It is an event we want to continue to do.”

Putnam County School System Student Services Supervisor Dr. Trey Upchurch understands the importance of this event.

“This is just a fun day for these students,” said Upchurch. “We are thankful to Sgt. Herrick for working to arrange this special day with our school counselors and to Academy Sports + Outdoors and Nissan of Cookeville for giving to make it possible. This day warms your heart in the biggest way as you see the student’s faces light up while walking around the store and to see first responders engaging with students. I hope this continues for many years.”

The cool morning temperatures added to the atmosphere when, just a little after school started, PCSS transportation bused over 50 kids from across the county for their shopping spree. The local Academy Sports + Outdoor store opened an hour before regular business hours to give the kids more one-on-one time to shop alongside local first responders.

Students received more than they could imagine after a new sponsor joined the cause.

“I was contacted by Nissan of Cookeville about doing a holiday shopping spree for students,” continued Herrick. “To build on the partnership with Academy Sports + Outdoors, we decided to continue the shopping spree at Academy. Nissan of Cookeville donated $10,000 to the event. We were incredibly humbled and grateful for their donations,” said Sgt. Herrick.

Together, the two corporations provided $12,000 to split between the students.

“We are honored to sponsor Community Heroes for the Holidays,” said Brady Bush, General Sales manager at Nissan of Cookeville. “We are grateful to the Putnam County School System and the Cookeville Police Department for arranging an event that positively impacts the lives of our local youth.

Herrick says heroes are everywhere.

“With all the partnerships from local corporations, the school system, the police department and local first responders, we are all heroes within the community to our youth,” said Herrick.

Students laughed and smiled, thankful for the opportunity and enveloped in joy.

“This was the best day because I was picked to come here,” said Amanda Lorenzo, a Fourth grader from Burks Elementary.

Ammira Parker’s smile said it all.

“My day has been great and joyful,” said Ammira Parker, a sophomore at Cookeville High School.

Spreading joy is heroic, after all.

“The joy on their faces will forever be etched in our memories,” admitted Bush. “We hope this occasion fills the heart of all the participants with the holiday spirit, and may this continue to be an annual tradition for years to come.”

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