Shop With a Cop provides Christmas gifts for 34 kids in Danville, Boyle County

Thirty-four Boyle County youngsters went on a Christmas shopping spree with local law enforcement officers Thursday morning during a “Shop with a Cop” event.

Boyle and Danville school systems each sent 15 students to join officers at Walmart, who happily pushed carts through the crowded toy aisles as the children carefully selected their gifts.

Each child received $220 to spend. However, if they went over-budget, many officers reached into their own pockets to make up the difference, said Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins.

[envira-gallery id=”60542″]

Seeming to be overwhelmed at first, younger children cautiously looked at every toy before deciding to put it in their carts. Older children had hand-written lists and knew exactly where to go to get their gifts. And the oldest students usually went directly to the clothing and electronics departments. One little shopper wanted to find a gift for his mom too, so Junction City Police Chief Russell Preston gently guided him to the candle aisle, but the child chose a small picture frame and cake server. “My mom doesn’t have one of those,” he said.

When everyone’s shopping was done and were lined up at the checkout lane, officers laughed among each other and talked with the kids. Santa appeared just in time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and Walmart employees passed out cookies.

“This program brings our community together,” said Court Designated Specialist Jennifer Gaddis, who helped organize the program. “It allows people to come together for the greater good. Twenty years from now, these kids may not be able to tell you about the specific toys they purchased on this day but they will always remember the feeling of they had. Children always remember the way you make them feel. These children are the reason we all strive to be better human beings. They make the world a better place. We are just blessed that they allow us to hang out with them for a day.”

Gaddis said this year’s local Shop with a Cop program raised nearly $9,000, so they were able to increase the number of children to shop with. They also decided to add four more children to their list whose home was recently destroyed by a fire.

Even the regular shoppers seemed to enjoy seeing the kids faces as they shopped. Once, when a child’s total came to more than $220, an older woman stepped out of her checkout line and offered $5 to help make up the difference.

One little girl couldn’t stop looking at all of her toys piled up in the cart. When asked which one was her favorite she replied with a toothless grin, “All of this stuff.”

After all the gifts were loaded up, officers treated all the shoppers to a special lunch at Cheddar’s.

“A lot of times, these kids see us at the worst times possible. They develop a negative image of law enforcement. This gives us an opportunity for them to develop a positive experience with us,” Robbins said. “I honestly believe we get more enjoyment out of taking them shopping than they do picking stuff out. It’s pretty cool to see the happiness in their eyes. Everyone is smiling. The kids, the deputies, even the Walmart employees. It’s just a positive experience all the way around.”

Deputy Casey McCoy said, “Shop with a Cop gives us the opportunity to make Christmas memorable for children who might not have had a Christmas at all. It is also great community policing to show the kids and public that we care and are human just like them.”

For Boyle County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Chris Stratton, the program is important to him “because it makes the kids smile.”