News

Halloween party to benefit “Cops with Cakes”

Oct. 12, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine – A child’s birthday is supposed to be filled with joy and attention. For the children who live in one of Portland’s homeless shelters, it can be just the opposite.

Shira Panelli, Maine Law ’11, recognized this hardship and recently created a non-profit organization to make sure the city’s homeless children receive cake, gifts and special attention on their birthdays.

Cops with Cakes, the organization that Panelli founded last year, is a collaboration with the Portland Police Department. Panelli taps a network of volunteers to bake cakes, and she relies on donations of toys and party supplies. A Portland Police officer attends each birthday party and presents the cake, gifts and goodie bags to the children. Panelli created the program while she was a student at Maine Law, during an externship with the city of Portland’s Neighborhood Prosecutor’s Office.

This month, for the second straight year, a Halloween costume party will raise money for Cops with Cakes. Zodie’s 2nd Annual Charity Halloween Party will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26, at the Portland Club, 156 State St., Portland. DJ ASIA will provide the music, and a cash prize will be awarded for best costume. Tickets are $25.

Panelli said she is excited for the event and thankful that Zodie Rich, a Portland resident and a friend of Panelli’s, once again chose Cops with Cakes as the beneficiary.

“I couldn’t be more thankful that Zodie is putting this on,” said Panelli, who works for the Access to Justice Division of the state of Maine’s Judicial Branch. “A lot of the kids wouldn’t have a birthday celebration if it wasn’t for this program.” Panelli was inspired by a California-based group called Spouses Behind the Badge, which provides Christmas gifts, birthday parties and other support for homeless children. Beyond bringing joy to the children and their families, Panelli said, Cops with Cakes forges positive relationships between the Police Department and the young people, many of whom are at risk of delinquency. “Working with the Police Department has been terrific,” Panelli said. “This all happened very fast because everybody was on board right away.”

Panelli has organized as many as six birthday parties in one month. For financial donations, Cops with Cakes has a designated account at University Credit Union. Panelli also accepts donations of birthday presents, such as toys, basketballs, soccer balls or other gifts, plates, napkins, forks, birthday cards, wrapping paper, items to fill goodie bags, and 4x6 picture frames, for photos of the children with the police officers. All donations can be sent or dropped off at 400 Allen Ave., Portland, Maine 04103. Donated items can also be dropped with Jamie Higgins at the Scarborough Police Department.

For more information, look for “Cops with Cakes” and “Zodie’s Charity Halloween Party” on Facebook. For tickets to the party, visit http://zodieshalloweenparty.eventbrite.com.

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Media contact: Trevor Maxwell, communications director at Maine Law
Office: 207-228-8037/ Cell: 207-286-4431/ email: trevor.maxwell@maine.edu

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