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Local cops take kids on Christmas shopping sprees

When Boyle Deputy Taylor Bottom walked into Cattleman’s Steakhouse, he was hoping to get a donation from the restaurant for the local Shop with a Cop program that provides Christmas gifts for kids in need. He walked out with a lot more than he bargained for.

Bottom was talking to a manager about a possible donation when he noticed the restaurant’s hostess had walked over “with a wad of money and was just standing there.”

Ben Kleppinger/ben.kleppinger@amnews.com
Danville Police Officer Adam Wilson smiles as he reviews all the toys in the shopping cart with 6-year-old Tristan, a Hogsett Primary School student.

When Bottom turned to her, she handed him the cash. “She said when she was young, her and her brother went through the Shop with a Cop program and it meant a whole lot to them,” Bottom said, holding back tears.

Now that this woman was in a better place financially, she wanted to give back to the program that helped give her a merry Christmas, Bottom explained. While the deputy was at the restaurant, the woman’s mother came in and gave him some more cash, and the woman’s brother, who works in the back of Cattleman’s, pitched in, too. In all, the family members contributed more than $400 for the Boyle County Shop with a Cop program.

“It just shows you that this program works and it’s a positive impact in (kids’) lives,” Bottom said.

Thanks in part to that family’s generous contributions, this year, the program doubled in size from 12 to 24 kids, said Jennifer Gaddis, a court designated specialist who helps coordinate the annual event. Donors gave more than $5,000 in total, Gaddis said.

Each kid was paired with a law enforcement officer — the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office, Danville Police Department and Junction City Police Department participated. The officers took them on a $175 shopping spree at Walmart. Inquisitive looks came from many shoppers as they noticed dozens of law enforcement officers with shopping carts piled high with toys.

“Oh this is Shop with a Cop,” one shopper realized as he looked at the line of officers and kids waiting to check out. “Can it be my turn next?” he joked.

After shopping, the whole group met up at Cheddar’s for lunch, which was also paid for through the program.

Gaddis said children are selected for the program through local schools’ family resource centers, which identify the kids most in need. Shopping with the deputies and officers gives the children “positive interaction with law enforcement,” Gaddis said, adding that “some kids don’t get that.”

The kids also got to ride in the law enforcement officers’ vehicles. Some even turned on lights and sirens as they took the short trip from Walmart to Cheddar’s Thursday morning.

Gaddis noted that many of the kids wind up with more than $175 worth of gifts because the officers decide to do more.

“Most of the officers and deputies buy out of their own pocket to make sure the kids get whatever they need,” she said.

Gaddis said organizers hope to once again double their donations and the number of kids they can help next year — they’re aiming for $10,000 in donations.

Anyone interested in contributing to the program can contact the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office at (859) 238-1123.