More than just shopping partners, kids and law enforcement officers exchanged greetings during the drive from Prescott Valley to the Prescott Walmart store on Gail Gardner Way, and breakfasted at Subway before hitting the floor with their lists and carts Saturday morning.
The annual Shop with a Cop event pairs officers with youngsters for a morning of purchasing family gifts. The 92 students come from four local public school districts and charter schools, referred by school nurses or local agencies. They were paired with 95 of 102 participating officers from Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley police departments, Citizens on Patrol, Arizona Highway Patrol, Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Marshals.
Bradshaw Mountain and Prescott high school cheer squads volunteered to accompany the children and also wrapped and gift-bagged shopping carts full of presents. Walmart donated the gift wrap supplies; Subway donated breakfast and lunch items.
Prescott Police Sgt. Ben Scott, community services coordinator, said planning for the 16th annual Shop with a Cop event began in August. As agencies collect contributions, the money goes into the event's account, which he oversees through Prescott PD. This year they raised enough to give out 95 gift cards worth $250, which is $50 more for each child than available this past year.
An extra $3,000 in gift cards from Walmart helped with overages - when the total expenditure exceeds the $250 by $5 or $10, Scott said, although some officers pulled out their own wallets to cover the cost. Any money left over goes into the safe for the next time Walmart hosts the event. Kmart will host next year's Shop with a Cop. A minimal amount goes toward mailing a group photograph to all the children.
Chino Valley Police Sgt. Mat Gronek used a cell phone app to scan the bar codes on items, keeping track of the total for his shopping partner Madison Brown.
But YCSO Deputy Rick Lopez bragged that Brandon Minier, 10, from Dewey was quick with figures.
"I'll be darned if this kid can add as fast as I can, and I'm pretty fast," Lopez said, pointing out the Legos as proof of Brandon's bent toward his career goal - engineering.
Brandon said he was up at 5:55 a.m. and "got a good start" on the day in the officer's car with the siren at full blast. He was looking forward to lunch after shopping.
Brandon Brewer, 7, finished shopping for his family members before picking out a bike for himself. He declined the cheerleaders' offer with a laugh, saying, "It's too big to wrap!"
Several officer family members also volunteered at one of the gift wrapping tables.
"I'm glad they have this program. It's incredibly rewarding for those who get a chance to do it," said Prescott Valley Police Sgt. Brandon Bonney, referring to the volunteers as well as the children.