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At-risk children get to Shop with a Cop
Kids get $275 and a police escort

Jeni Robertson, 7, looks at some princess dresses while shopping with Prescott Police Lieutenant Amy Bonnie Saturday morning during the 18th Annual Shop With a Cop event at the Highway 69 Wal-Mart in Prescott.

Jeni Robertson, 7, looks at some princess dresses while shopping with Prescott Police Lieutenant Amy Bonnie Saturday morning during the 18th Annual Shop With a Cop event at the Highway 69 Wal-Mart in Prescott.

Children from less than ideal situations were treated to a shopping spree at the Wal-Mart along Highway 69 on Saturday, Dec. 12, for the 18th annual shop with a Cop.

The program pairs law enforcement officers with at-risk children to give the children an opportunity to see officers in a non-threatening situation, said a news release. The idea is to foster a positive relationship between the two, while also allowing the children to provide for contribute to their family's Christmas.

Overall, 85 children ages 7 to 12 participated in the event. They were all referred by watch-dog groups and non-profit organizations that commonly deal with at-risk children. Officers from 10 state and local law enforcement agencies were present to partner with the kids.

"It's one of the best things we do all year long," said Lieutenant Jon Brambila with the Prescott Police Department. "I enjoy it every year."

Brambila has participated in the event the last 17 years. His partner in shopping this year was 7-year-old Addy Smith.

"That's what I want," Smith said, pointing to a $99 interactive unicorn toy.

After talking it over with Brambila on whether she's sure she wanted the unicorn, however, Smith ended up settling for a $50 interactive dog toy instead.

Each kid was allotted $275 to purchase whatever they wanted. All of the money used for the children was donated from Quad-city citizens, organizations and businesses.

Some parents worked with their children to formulate wish lists and indicated what type of items are off limits, but once there, the kids were pretty much given free reign.

"We definitely try to let them have fun and get some toys," Brambila said. "The officers are good about steering the children away from things the parents don't want their kid getting."

Eight-year-old Tim Walley's parents listed clothing on his wish list, but Willett had other things in mind for his $275.

"That's like the only thing they put on here and he won't go anywhere near the clothing isles," said Josh McDonnell with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who was paired with Walley.

Instead, Walley ended up with a Star Wars coloring set, a lock box, a tablet and a three-foot tall talking Star Wars Stormtrooper, all from Tim to Tim.

"I knew what I wanted," said Walley. "I was just like, get this, get this, get this."

After purchasing the items, the kids brought their toys over to a gift wrapping station within the Wal-Mart manned by cheerleaders from both Bradshaw and Prescott High School.

The cheerleaders, along with a few of Bradshaw High School's football players, also helped the officers and their assigned children pick out gifts and find their through the supercenter.

"I think this is the first time for the football team to be doing it too," said Adolfo Mendoza, wide receiver for Bradshaw's Mountain Bears. "It's a cool event."

There was also a Santa Clause brought in by a firetruck and local mascots such as Eddie Eagle, Deputy Do-Right, Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog made surprise visits throughout the morning as well.

Breakfast was provided by Wal-Mart and McDonalds.

With plenty of money and a few items still in mind to get for her sisters and grandmother, Smith eyed a small toy that caught her interest.

"I want this, is that okay?" Smith asked Brambila.

"Yeah, go ahead," Brambila said.

"It's $2.88," Smith continued.

"Don't worry about it, just pick it and I'll keep track of it," Brambila said.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105, or 928-642-7864.

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