Shop With A Cop Rewards GRIC Students
January 1, 2016
By Christopher Lomahquahu
A local Mixed Martial Arts organization is making an impact outside of the ring by treating three exemplary Gila River Indian Community students to an early Christmas morning.
Gila River Police Department School Resource Officers and MMA fighters teamed up to bring cheer to three students from schools across the Community through the “Shop with a Cop” program on Dec. 19.
Instead of Santa’s red sleigh, a GRPD black and white patrol car lead the way, but it wasn’t to nab criminals. And this Santa didn’t wear a red suit or a long white beard, it was the Chief Executive Officer for World Fighting Federation, Thom Ortiz.
The opportunity to go shopping days ahead of Christmas was a bit of a surprise for Lorenzo Casas a third grade student at St. Peter Indian Mission School, Junior Pancott a seventh grade student at Sacaton Middle School and C-Jay Stevens a fifth grade student at Gila Crossing Community School.
Ortiz is also the co-founder of WFF, a mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fight promotion company that hosts their bouts at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino.
In his previous endeavors, Ortiz lead a successful tenure as a wrestler and coach at Arizona State University, but some of his success has been through leading charitable efforts to help out local communities.
“There were things people did for me like my dad who paid my entry fee to my first fight. Its things like that that really make a difference in someone’s life,” he said.
Accompanying the students were officers Manuel Duarte, James Milano, Ester Poolaw and Rochelle Rodriguez who nominated them among their school peers.
Before the shopping commenced the group made an appearance on the FOX 10 Arizona Morning Show to talk about the purpose of the program.
Patrick Williams another MMA competitor and friend to Ortiz stepped forward to support the morning activity.
He said this was the best way he could express his gratitude by using the opportunities afforded to him as a MMA fighter is to encourage the students to continue the path of success in school.
Williams said he was made aware about the program through Ortiz, which at the time he knew he couldn’t pass up.
Afterwards they made their way to a Wal-Mart store in Chandler to look for their gifts.
Pancott was excited to find out that very same morning he was chosen to go shopping for Christmas gifts.
Duarte said the kids were chosen based upon their grades and good conduct in class and that a lot of credit and thanks goes to the SROs.
He said the “Shop with a Cop” program would be around next year and Ortiz plans to take more students shopping.
Lorenzo picked out a tablet device and a basketball and he said he enjoyed spending time with the SROs and MMA fighters.
“It’s very gratifying that we could put things together by giving me the opportunity to give back,” said Ortiz.