‘Enjoy Christmas with a gift’: Shelton officer wants to stuff a cruiser with toys

Shelton Police Officer John Staples has organized a Stuff-a-Cruiser toy donation event for Dec. 18, 2021, in the Walmart parking lot, 465 Bridgeport Ave. Staples, above, poses in front of Perry Hill School.

Shelton Police Officer John Staples has organized a Stuff-a-Cruiser toy donation event for Dec. 18, 2021, in the Walmart parking lot, 465 Bridgeport Ave. Staples, above, poses in front of Perry Hill School.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Officer John Staples has spent months developing relationships with local youth through his Small City, Big Dreams program.

Now Staples is teaming with Walmart and the school district to make holiday dreams come true for those young people in families struggling this year.

The Shelton Police Department will hold its first Stuff-a-Cruiser event on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Walmart in Shelton. Staples is asking people to drop off a new, unwrapped toy at the event, organized by Staples with volunteers from the city’s Youth Services Department and the police department.

“Our goal is to stuff this cruiser with gifts … we want those children who are in need to enjoy Christmas with a gift,” Staples said.

Staples is working with the school’s guidance counselors, who will identify those families that could use the assistance this holiday season. Walmart is donating $200 in gift cards, and Staples will be using those cards to purchase toys Friday that will be stuffed into the cruiser before people begin arriving Saturday.

Staples, known among the city’s youth as Officer Bubbles or Bubbz, brought his Small City, Big Dreams initiative to the Shelton schools last year. He began his program with students at Perry Hill School but he now spends days at the high and intermediate schools.

Staples’s program is designed to build relationships and acquaint children and young adults with law enforcement officials while providing safety, crime prevention initiatives within the school and throughout the community. Staples also acts as a mentor to dozens of local youths.

The curriculum for the program is slightly different for each school. At Perry Hill, Staples focuses on how to interact with a police officer, bullying, defusing tension and being aware of surroundings.

At the intermediate school, Staples tackles effective communication; how to interact with police and what you should do if you are involved in a police matter; bullying and cyber-bullying; impacts of vaping and tobacco products; and growth and opportunities.

Staples said his high school curriculum mirrors that of the intermediate school, with the additional focus on personal relationships. He said he teaches youth it is “OK” to agree to disagree. He also works with students on the importance of networking and negotiating.

For more information, call Staples at 203-924-1544, ext. 4331.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com