14th Day: Shop with a Cop

The fourteenth day was a day our family looks forward to every Christmas season.  It was our Shop with a Cop day.  The day that I am always just so humbled by these amazing children and find a deeper appreciation for the work my husband does in the community everyday.  Feel free to read more about the organization and our past experiences here and here.

    The day started with an early breakfast at the local VFW for all the officers and their families.  For a little context as far as why Marshall is dressed the way he is: Brad received an award back in November.  Brad’s Chief, his wife, Brad, & I attended the ceremony together and during our dinner conversation his Chief asked that Marshall wear his police uniform to the Shop with a Cop event so Mads could be an honorary officer for the day.  A dream come true for the littlest Dingman.
    So Marshall proudly wore his police uniform to the breakfast, boasting a badge on his little chest, and excited to be one of the boys in blue.  He was a quick hit with the ‘big boy officers’.  Marshall didn’t even wait for a promotion from honorary officer, he went straight to the bosses table and sat with the Chief, Captain, and a Sergeant.
Just talkin shop, no big deal.

 

Naturally, Marshall played it very professionally.  Chief was impressed by his skill of eating a circle out the middle.

 

     Marshall just had a blast talking with the officers and charming their wives.  He definitely felt like he was part of the department.  Last year he was sad when I held him back out of pictures, this year he was excited to make it in!
Marshall with the Chief
    After breakfast, we headed to Wal-Mart to meet our families before heading out to shop with the children.  At first, Mads got upset that we were leaving the breakfast.  Once we reassured him that we would see his buddy, the chief, again at the store he was a happy camper.
 
    Once at Wal-Mart, we met up with all the officers, volunteers, and families.  The Chief started with giving a speech about how Officers are in the community to help.  To not only protect, but also to serve and not just this one time a year- but all year long.  Chief then surprised us by honoring Brad, asking Brad to raise his hand for the families to recognize which officer he was about to talk about. When he said “officer Dingman raise your hand”, Marshall shot his little hand in the air as he stood right in front of his papa.  The room got a good chuckle out of the tiny officer Dingman, the Chief quickly explained that this was his little officer for the day who is also officer Dingman.  The Chief then went on to say what an incredible officer Brad is, how he has dedicated so much to helping the community, and what a team player he is.  Chief is sad to see us go but is so very proud of Bradley and his prestigious position he is getting in Minnesota.  It was a bittersweet moment, we are so excited to move and so thrilled that the Chief has such respect for Brad, but sad to be leaving this department with such great officers and police wives.
 
    This year, we were assigned a three year old boy.  His mother was a stay at home mom, her husband- his dad- took everything one day and left her penniless.   She is originally from Tennessee, and that is where her entire extended family is.  Just like that she was struck down into poverty with her three children and no family to help.  It really is just that easy to fall down and need some extra help, it can happen to anyone.  I talked with her for quite some time, she is my age, mid-twenties, and trying to figure everything out.  But she is excited that she is getting into her own place before Christmas!  She was an inspiration, working so hard to try to get back on her feet all on her own.  I’m so glad that we could play a small part in her comeback story.
    As soon as I heard we had a three year old boy my heart broke a little bit more.  I always feel for the children every year, but a three year old boy- the same age and gender as our child- definitely put a whole new perspective on the day. He was such a sweetie, very shy at first, but so very grateful.  He came with a list of needs he had to get first: mittens, hat, blankets, socks, shoes.  Things that many three year olds wouldn’t get super excited about, but our little buddy was so overjoyed with every pick.  He wanted to carry everything in his little arms- his mom explained to me that the little guy’s dad was ruthless and took just everything, so now he insists on trying to carry and hoard everything he can in his arms so that no one will take more things away from him.  That just broke my heart all the more for him.  We are talking about deathgrips on socks because he was afraid someone would come and take it from him because one of the first people you learn to trust- a dad- took everything.  I just wanted to hug the little sweetie.
Marshall insisted on being a big helper with pushing the cart

 

To push and shop

 

Helping find the perfect pair of shoes

 

 

    Once we were finished with getting the necessities on his list, we were able to go back to the toy section.  That is when we had a lot of fun!  Our little buddy didn’t know what to do with himself, being told he could pick any toy out- with Brad egging him on to pick out more and more.  The look in his eyes. . . oh how I wish I could perfectly capture that for everyone to see.  A little boy who has lost everything, finally getting a little piece of normalcy, getting to be a little boy again.  This is what Christmas is about guys, it’s about giving to those in need; spreading joy and renewing hope.

 

 

    We walked our new friend back to wrap presents so he could save the gifts for Christmas.  I let him pick out which wrapping paper and bows he wanted- all blue, both his and Marshall’s favorite color.
Filling out gift tags
Wrapping gifts

 

Marshall helping me wrap gifts.
Brad needs to work on finger position while
taking pictures.

 

   Two three year olds get bored pretty quickly watching gifts get wrapped, so I threw them some empty rolls to play pretend with.  They were pirates having sword fights, walking with canes, yelling through mega phones, and looking through telescopes.
I see you, friend!

 

    Being an honorary officer means that a lot of very important people want to talk with you about your service and helping others.  Marshall got his picture taken by the newspaper, met the mayor and talked with her for awhile, and the Chief decided he was going to personally buy Marshall anything Mads wanted.
Marshall with an Alderman wife, left, and
Mayor Johnston,  right.

 

The Chief and Brad watching Marsh pick out his gift from Chief.

 

Marshall picked out his first Nerf gun, Chief made sure he grabbed extra darts.
Thanks Chief.

 

    We returned to the back room, where all the families were, to visit and play.  I am always so struck by what the department is able to give the families from the donations we receive.  Mattresses, safe cribs, chairs- household goods that so many children have to go without.
Beds, cribs, essentials for living.

 

Some of the department

 

One of Marshall’s favorite officers teaching him how to use his radio.

 

    It was such a special time, we didn’t want to leave.  Every year I am so touched by the stories of the children we help.  It is our hope that Marshall sees how blessed he is, how it is of the utmost importance to help others however he can, and what an incredible gift it is to be part of this community.  These men and women are so much more than police officers, they have dedicated their lives to helping others, to making sure that everyone gets to feel secure, and trying to get everyone in their community a slice of happiness.
    The day was not yet finished, after a quick nap and some more packing.  We headed to Bass Pro for their Christmas Village and ‘Local Hero Appreciation Night’, honoring firefighters, EMS, and police.  They close down Christmas village just for the heroes and their families, give all the heroes a special ornament, and do drawings for prizes.  A truly special night for our hardworking men and women in uniform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    After all the games and visiting with Santa, we headed to the toy section so Marshall could pick out a toy with his gift card.  This past Halloween, Marshall won the  gift card at the Bass Pro Halloween costume contest for the third (and last) year.  Mads was just tickled that he got to pick out a present with his own money; he picked out a kid’s play hunting blind.
    The fourteenth day was a day of celebrating our blue line family and giving back in the most incredible way.  Meeting families that leave an everlasting mark on our hearts, and passing on the gift of charity to our son.  That Marshall may be raised with a heart for helping others and always feel the need to come to the aid of those that can use the help, free of judgement and with an open mind.  We were able to finish the day with having a special night of Christmas hero fun and have Marshall see his papa be appreciated by his department and community alike.  This day has definitely been the most special and treasured day we’ve had during this round of our twenty-five, maybe even the most special of all.  We really hope we are making a difference- however small- and today I think we saw that we are.  I hope everyone gets to feel the joy of giving this holiday season, as well as all year long.  Be someone’s hero.
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    I cannot encourage you enough to donate to your local law enforcement agencies for their Shop with a Cop program.  It gives children a Christmas, families a head start, and the police act as male role models for the little ones.  Please make the phone call to your local agency- nothing better than helping local kids in desperate need!  If you would rather shop yourself, please check out an angel tree or adopt a family to give others a Christmas.  Every child deserves a present- because it is so much more than Santa, it is about feeling loved and cared for.  It’s about being able to be a child and free of adult worries.  If you are running short of money this Christmas, call and see if you could volunteer your talents as a gift wrapper for Shop with a Cop.  There are many needs to be filled, everyone can help in some way.  I promise you, it’s something you will never regret.  Have a very Merry Christmas, one and all
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