Every year donations pour in which allow Law Enforcement Officers to take children in difficult circumstances – whether they have lost a sibling, are dealing with financial difficulties or are facing a myriad of other challenges, to an event called Shop with a Cop.
This magical day begins as parents drop the kids off at their local police department. The children are first taken to breakfast where they interact with other kids from various schools and law enforcement officers from all over the valley - and they meet Santa Claus! Once all of their bellies are full and the anticipation of shopping is through the roof, all of the kids climb aboard school buses and with a full police escort head to the local Wal-Mart. As the kids get off the buses at Wal-Mart, they line up quickly and each child is partnered with a police officer. Now it’s time to “Shop with a Cop!”
It is an amazing, feel good event where everyone involved gets in that true “holiday spirit.” Every child has $150 to spend on anything they want – toys, food, clothing – anything for themselves or others. Officers are armed with calculators, adding up everything as the aisles go by. Once the shopping is done, the totals tallied and the gifts bagged, each child gets the chance to make a “thank you” card for the officer that helped them with their shopping. The kids then get their picture taken with the officer so they can remember that very special officer. All of the children are then escorted back to the local police departments where the parents are ready to pick them up. Parents are grateful, especially since we do this right before Christmas – and everyone walks away feeling all gooey inside!
To put the true “holiday spirit” in this story, one experience truly stands out. One of the kids picked for this event was nominated by the school because of the families’ financial need. We’ll call this little 7 year-old girl Gabby. On her shopping trip Gabby decided to buy diapers for her 4 month old sister, a doll for her 4 year old sister and a Razor scooter for her 6 year old brother. Gabby, knowing her mom has dry hands because of bathing her youngest daughter several times each day, decided to buy her mom Oil of Olay hand cream (which was expensive!). Gabby asked how much money she had left – she was told she still had $55. She asked if we could look at bikes, so we did. Gabby found a beautiful, pink NEXT bike with stickers of flowers and stars and tinsels at the end of the handlebars. She lit up! Even though the bike was $59, a little over her budget, she was given the nod to buy it. She was ecstatic!
When the event was done, we brought Gabby back to the police department to wait for her family. As we were waiting Gabby was excited to ride her new bike in the parking lot, tinsels blowing in the wind. Her mom arrived and seeing Gabby’s smile, asked her how much fun she had, “I loved it Mom!” Her mom followed up by asking her what she had purchased. Gabby described everything with the bicycle as the last item. Her mom gently reminded her, “I told you not to buy anything too big.” Her mom then turned to me and mentioned that the family was moving to Dallas because there is a job waiting for her there. She also said the car was packed and they were leaving that day and had no additional room in the car. Gabby jumped in and said “Mom, I have already ridden the bike” and looked at me and asked “can you find a good home for my bike?” “I bought something for everybody in my family and I know someone would like to have my pretty pink bike.” I promised her I would.
Now that’s the true spirit of the holidays. Take the advice of a 7-year old, and pass it forward!