- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Seventy-five children received a brighter Christmas on Saturday when local police officers partnered with them to go shopping at Walmart in Waldorf for clothes and toys.
The event, in its fifth year, allows children from low-income families to buy gifts for themselves and their families while also spending time with police officers.
Children received $200 each to spend, obtained from fundraisers and donations held by local law enforcement agencies throughout the year.
Participating agencies included the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, the La Plata Police Department, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Maryland State Police.
Police officers picked up the children at their homes and traveled to the Waldorf Elks Lodge, where they received breakfast and quickly thought about what they wanted to buy with their $200.
Jason Brown, 10, of Waldorf said he wanted to get an iPod Touch. Jason was paired with Officer D. Baker of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s awesome,” Jason said about the Shop With the Cop event.
Tresaun Brown, 10, who is not related to Jason but lives in Waldorf and is Jason’s best friend, said he was looking for an iPod and T-shirts.
“He has a cool car,” Tresaun said about Officer Mark Bourgeois’ car. Tresaun was paired wirth Bourgeois.
Kevona Yates, 11, of La Plata had a list prepared of each item she intended to buy, including a skateboard for herself and gifts for her sister. She said she was looking forward to getting toys the most.
“It’s fun,” Kevona said about the event.
“Essentially, we’re here to get what the children need, but often they are getting things for their family, which is great,” Bourgeois said.
The best part of the day, Bourgeois said, is “to see the kids light up and have a good day.”
After receiving breakfast at the Elks Lodge, the children rode in police cars down Old Washington Road, pushing buttons to blare sirens and flash lights.
As the motorcade pulled into Walmart, several dozen police cruisers treated shoppers to a fanfare of lights and sirens.
For Officer Richard Allen, the triumphant entry is his favorite part of Shop With a Cop because the children get to press the buttons to light up the cars and sound sirens in the Walmart parking lot.
As the police officers and children searched through Walmart, many found gifts they wanted as well as clothes matching their interests.
Kevona found a green and black skateboard for herself and creative gifts for her sister.
Kevona was paired with La Plata Police Officer Cpl. M. Payne, her community police officer, and the two bonded.
Last year, a house fire destroyed Kevona’s home, she and Payne said.
The past year has been rough, Kevona said, but her family is in a new home. Thanks to Shop With a Cop, the family also will have some really cool gifts.
Jason could not purchase an iPod Touch, as it cost too much for his $200 budget, so he settled on a multiplayer video game and an extra controller for his friend, gifts for his brother and school supplies.
Meanwhile, Xavier Pope, 5, of Waldorf found many Spiderman-themed clothes and gifts, including a winter hat and a toy that shoots spider webs.
“He sticks on the wall,” Xavier said, expressing the reason he likes Spiderman the best.
Other children snatched up Angry Birds gear, World Wrestling Entertainment dolls, EasyBake ovens and other gifts.
The program is set up so that the children spend half of their allotted $200 on clothes and the other half on toys.
Some children put their family, friends and teachers first, buying gifts for them before considering toys for themselves.
“Every year, officers come up to me to talk, and they can’t believe how unselfish they are. The kids are buying gifts for others. It happens every year. ... It’s not what you’d expect,” sheriff’s officer J. Long said. Long is one of the event’s coordinators.
Officer Dan Kabala, who serves through the sheriff’s office as a school officer at Piccowaxen Middle School in Newburg, was paired up with one of those unselfish children.
Tony Felton, 10, of Newburg got his family members gifts before himself, Kabala said.
Later, Tony got a Pokemon video game for himself.
“I like him,” Tony said about Kabala.
After the children and police officers purchased the gifts, everyone returned to the Elks Lodge to eat lunch and wrap presents.
Volunteers wrapped and packed gifts at the Elks Lodge, functioning much like Santa’s workshop.
Officer C. Shaw, one of the event coordinators, said the event gets easier and easier to run every year.
“The officers know what to do,” Shaw said.
The program requests referrals from schools, churches and other community organizations to find children who have not been picked in previous years, Long said.
Officers meet with the family to determine whether they are interested in participating, Long added.
Sheriff Rex Coffey said the biggest thing for him about Shop With a Cop is that the event is an opportunity for police officers to show they are about supporting children, even if people in the community have had negative encounters with the police.
“It lets them see firsthand that we’re just regular people and we just want them to do good. Hopefully, it is a lasting memory for them,” Coffey (D) said.
Chick-fil-A, the Waldorf Elks Lodge, Cold Stone Creamery and the Waldorf Lions Club provided food for the event.