On our fifteenth day we had our day of giving. We started the day a little earlier than usual, as soon as Brad got off of working the overnight shift, he picked Marshall and I up and we headed to the Officer’s Breakfast at the local VFW.
Marshall absolutely loves police family events; he runs from officer to officer, making his rounds to say hello and fist bump. He likes to think he is one of the big boys in uniform and mess with their duty belts.
At the breakfast we enjoyed visiting with other officers and their families, Marshall even ate bacon to fit in with the guys. Brad’s chief gave a heartfelt speech about the Shop with a Cop program and some facts about the history of the city’s program.
Some quick facts: this is the city’s third shop with a cop event (we’ve been involved since the first year!). The amount of children we help and how much we can budget per a child varies every year based off of donations collected throughout the year, so please consider looking up your city or county law enforcement agency to donate. The children are selected by the police department through the city’s elementary school’s guidance counselor, based off of income and need. Once a family from the elementary school is selected, all the children in the family are part of the charity- including teenagers and infants. The police department also collects necessary items throughout the year to make personalized gift bags for each family. These items include diapers, clothes, socks, underwear, winter essentials, soaps, etc. So please consider calling your local agency to donate these needs- this program survives off of local folks helping local children. The chief even walks around the meeting room, where parents and guardians wait while the kids are shopping, asking if anyone needs any essentials that he can purchase quick. An exciting new announcement that the chief also made this year was that he is hoping to be able to collect enough extra money throughout this next year that the department will be able to do a back to school shop with a cop so that kids in need can get important school supplies, allowing for a better school experience and more confidence. Education is a great key out of poverty and enriching the child’s life.
At the end of the speech and breakfast, all the officers got together for a group photo. This is when Mads got pretty upset because I wouldn’t let him be front and center in with all the police. He is our little photo bomber, he just so badly wants to be apart of the group of guys (and girl).
|The officers in Brad’s department that volunteered with Shop with a Cop|
Once we were all done with the breakfast and visiting, we headed to Walmart to meet our assigned children. This year we had twelve families with fourteen children between them, our budget per child was $125. Brad’s department even took in three last minute children (bringing the total to seventeen); literally as they were walking into Walmart they were joining. They were suppose to be with the Sheriff Deputy’s but they came on the wrong day, so our chief scooped them up and brought them into our program.
Each Shop with a Cop program is different based off of rules for what the children can and can’t get. Brad’s department’s only rule us try to keep it around the budgeted price and let the kids get what they want. The child assigned to us was an eight year old little boy. Our little guy needed boots so that was the first thing we went for.
|Picking out some good, waterproof boots|
After the boots we went to the toy section. The little boy wanted a nerf gun so that he could play with his cousins, as his cousins have nerf guns but he didn’t. He was so excited when Brad saw him looking at the extra nerf darts and asked him if he wanted to throw that in the cart too, it was so great to see how he could just let his worries go for awhile and dream ‘big’.
He picked up a few more things and then we started walking to the opposite side of the store from the toys. I was confused until we got to the grocery section and he started picking out food for his family. I started tearing up a little bit, it was such a bittersweet moment. I realized just what a burden this little eight year old bore, how many eight year old do you know would go pick out food if they were told they could buy anything they wanted? It was also sweet as he was thinking about more than just himself, he was thinking of his siblings and parents on the most basic level.
We were done all too quickly and it was time to go to check out. Walmart had special checkouts just for the kids and gave them all a tax exemption. The boy watched carefully as each item was rung up and put in the cart. He was so excited to go back to have other volunteers wrap the gifts.
|Checking out- Merry Christmas!|
When we were waiting in line in the storage room of Walmart, I asked him what his favorite gift was. He pointed to his football, “This, because I can play catch when my dad comes to visit.”. That football was $5. At the risk of sounding cliche, that is the price of a Caribou/Starbucks. It really is that simple to give a child a great Christmas.
The presents were quickly wrapped, with a lot of comments and ‘bless your heart’-s about the groceries. And we returned to the meeting place located in the employee break room to meet up with the boy’s aunt. Walmart provided cookies and juice to the parents/ guardians as they waited and for the kids and officers/ volunteers as they returned. Marshall quickly grabbed a cookie and made himself at home, as usual.
Our boy’s aunt was the one waiting, mom was a little embarrassed about needing the help so the aunt took him and his sibling to meet us. This is where I want to give just a quick shout out to his mom and all the parents and guardians who sent their children to us. Many people are just a job loss or illness away from being in their situation; it takes big people to admit they need a little extra help and give their kids a Christmas through charity. There were many families who turned away the officers’ help, which is understandable. Really though, the parents are still giving their kids a Christmas- they are just doing it in a different, more selfless way.
The aunt took a picture of Brad and our boy with his excited face (I don’t post pictures with his face for his family’s privacy). He became even happier when Brad gave him his LEO business card in case he ever needs anything. He may have started out shy but he definitely warmed up and was all smiles by the end.
We got home and Brad quickly headed to bed and Marshall and I watched “Sofia the First: Holiday in Enchancia“. The short holiday movie features Mads’ favorite Disney princess, Sofia, and her first Wassalia (holiday like Christmas) at her new castle. Things go awry and her family is stranded, having to stay with some impoverished peasants in the woods. While there, Sofia learns of how other children don’t have as much as she does and how good it would make both the children and her feel if she gave them her Wassalia presents. Marshall and I talked about this and I related it back to our various charity efforts in Shay’s name as well as Shop with a Cop.
Our fifteenth day is one that I look forward to every year. NOTHING feels as good as giving back to local children in need, hearing their stories, and watching just how thoughtful they are. I hope Marshall grows up with a humble and giving heart; that he is able to participate in Shop with a Cop every year and learns lessons both from the children and from the giving. The fifteenth day was just a feel good day, there is nothing like helping a child in person, it was the perfect way to spend the day.