Annual Shop with a Cop excites kids
McDonalds, WalMart, EMTs, police giving tradition
EPHRAIM — “This is one of the coolest things we get to do all year,” police officer Jason Albee said fondly.
Police officers from all over Sanpete County came together in a united effort to make the Christmas season special for underprivileged children through the annual Shop with a Cop charity event last Saturday morning. This year marks the event’s 17th year. It will takes place the first Saturday of every December involving roughly 40-50 uniformed officers.
“It’s very positive for the kids and the community,” Sheriff Ron Rasmussen said. “There are a lot of people that come out to watch just because they enjoy watching the interactions of the children with the law enforcement.”
Starting at McDonald’s and ending at Walmart, these children were able to get what they wanted for Christmas, but that wasn’t where most of them stopped, or even started. Rasmussen saw many kids going for what their families wanted or needed before their own desires. “You would think that the kids would go straight to the toy area and load up on toys,” Rasmussen says, “but they don’t. It’s really amazing to watch them and see what they do. They go through the store and they buy things for their families.”
At the Greenwood Student Center at Snow College, children gathered as early as 6:50 a.m. to get picked up by Sanpete’s officers. They were taken from there in police cars out to the McDonald’s on the south end of Ephraim for breakfast for a complementary breakfast.
Once finished, the children rode with their officers down Main Street in a special motorcade, lights and sirens and all. Officers gave control of those lights and sirens to their giddy passengers all the way up to Walmart.
Once at the store, it was shopping time. With prepared lists by family members, children and officers weaved in and out of Walmart aisles looking for items on their lists for Christmas gifts. Each child was given $125 to spend.
“The child that was with me this day,” Rasmussen said. “We kept having to ask her, ‘What would you like?’ and she says, ‘Nothing. I’m okay.’ She was completely unselfish. It was amazing to watch the passion that a lot of these kids have for their family members.”
Even the officers involved were getting into the Christmas spirit, touched by the hearts of these youngsters. Some children found themselves over their credited amount, and when it happened, Rasmussen said he saw many officers open their own wallets to cover the difference.
EMT crews lined up behind tables at the front of the store to wrap the various gifts that children bought. Once the gifts were boxed, wrapped, and placed back in the cart, the excited kids often sped their way to the door, but volunteers with the store stopped them before they got too far to give them some free food and groceries as they walked out.
The children who participated were selected by their local schools depending on family circumstance or hardships that would interfere with the kids having gifts for Christmas. For the families in need of help, it was a huge blessing. “I think it’s a special program,” Kristy Grace said. Grace’s two children both took part in the event.
“It helps kids who might not have a Christmas otherwise,” she said.
“Even years down the road, we have kids that have been involved in this program that come up to the officers and say ‘Do you remember me?’” Rasmussen said. “And the officers will remember them. It’s a positive thing that the kids and the officers get to be a part of.”