Cops brighten holiday for 85 local children
EDITOR'S NOTE: "Shop with a Cop" is a program which, for more than a decade, has paired local police officers with children in need to shop for the holidays. We have referred to the kids by first name only in this story.
Eighty-five emergency vehicles' lights flashed and sirens blared in a procession from Prescott Valley to Prescott on Saturday as officers brought 85 children to Wal-Mart to "Shop with a Cop."
"Neveah loved driving in the police car," Sgt. Georgia Davies of the Prescott Police said. "She talked the whole way over and really liked the siren."
This program, in its 12th year, pairs children in need with officers who help them shop for holiday gifts for their family, said Michelle Medina of the Prescott Police Department.
"We want to let them know we're the good guys," Medina said.
Officers with Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Yavapai College, Yavapai Prescott Tribal and Veterans Affairs police departments, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, United States Marshals Office and United States Forest Service participated in the program.
Many law enforcement and Wal-Mart employees, the Prescott High School spirit line, as well as McGruff the Crime Dog, Deputy Do-Right, Smokey the Bear and the Arizona Sundogs' mascot Burnie greeted the children and their officer partners as they entered the store.
The children then ate breakfast, had pictures taken with Santa, and started shopping with their officer.
"This was the first year for the Wal-Mart in Prescott on Gail Gardner Way to host 'Shop with a Cop,'" said Leonard Garrison, merchandise supervisor for Wal-Mart.
"I'm glad we were able to do this. We usually do something similar to this each year."
Wal-Mart donated the breakfast and photos with Santa Claus, as well as gift-wrapping for the children's presents.
When David had trouble choosing a videogame from the sales rack, his partner told him he didn't need to rush.
"We've got time, and we've got money," said Officer D.W. Beal with Chino Valley Police.
Individuals and businesses throughout Yavapai County donated money for children to purchase gifts for their family, Medina said. This year, each child used a $200 gift card.
Pretty soon, Neveah piled her shopping cart high with gifts for her family, but she still needed one more thing - a special card for her dad. Sgt. Davies helped her find just the right one.
Brandon said he'd used the Internet to search for gifts for his family. "He has a list of what he needs," said Officer Tom Grant of the Prescott Valley Police, nodding to Brandon.
Then Brandon told Grant he wanted to find something special for his sister, who just had her ears pierced.
Other children needed a little help finding just the right gift. McKenzie from the Prescott High School spirit line helped Leann choose a gift in her aunt's favorite color.
When Leann said she couldn't remember the color, Sgt. Scott Stebbins of Prescott Valley Police suggested she call her aunt and say "the elves need a little help."
Carmen found a movie her family could enjoy together with Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Jennifer Polanchak. Then she started looking for something for her brother.
"We're going to take care of the siblings first," said Officer Steve Mitchell with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who was paired with Tyler. "Then we're going to take care of ourselves." Mitchell pointed out the cart full of gifts Tyler had already chosen for his sisters, while Tyler looked at radio-controlled cars and rockets.
"We're just a little over," said Scott Poppenberger of Arizona Game and Fish, as he added up Salvador's gifts on a calculator.
"I'll put it back," said Salvador as he placed a Lego set back on the shelf.
But Poppenberger pointed out they did have enough for the car set Salvador held and talked about so excitedly.
"Good! I really want this," Salvador said.
After the children finished shopping, volunteers wrapped their gifts with plenty of bows.
Neveah smiled proudly while she waited with Sgt. Davies in the gift-wrapping line. Neveah said she'd found gifts for everyone on her list.
After everyone got their gifts, the officers drove the children back to the Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy in Prescott Valley where their families were waiting for them.