Dawson County Sheriff’s Office vehicles lined the front of Walmart last Wednesday night as officers prepared for a very special mission.
At 5 p.m. Dec. 19, over 70 local children busted through the back doors of Walmart ready to shop until they dropped for the annual Shop with a Cop event.
“It’s awesome any time you can give back,” said Capt. Chad White.
Each year for the past 12 years, the sheriff’s office has participated in Shop with a Cop, an event that pairs underprivileged children in the community with local officers to shop for Christmas presents.
With $100 for each child to spend on whatever their hearts desired, they were ready to hit the toy aisles for some goodies.
“This is one of the best years we’ve had for donations,” said Sheriff Jeff Johnson. “We’ve had some very generous gifts this year.”
Shop with a Cop is funded by donations given throughout the year as well as contributions from local schools that have been finding creative ways to turn raising money into a fun contest.
The school system raised a grand total of $4,895.58 to go toward providing Christmas magic for kids. Riverview Elementary School was the big winner, raising $2,200, double what the school raised in 2017.
“When you think about the time of year this is, everybody’s been asked to give and you already have extra expenses for your own family because of the holidays, and people have just been so generous because they want the kids taken care of,” said Riverview Principal Julia Mashburn. “It just touches us so much.”
Faculty and staff from the school system volunteered to help supervise as well as partnered with children to help them shop.
“I think it’s really cool. It’s really nice that the police officers take their time out of their day to come out and shop with the kids,” said Dawson County Middle School special education teacher Lacy Hammond as she manned a full shopping cart of toys. “It’s good for our community to see the police officers in a good light and not be scared or worried or think they’re always bad – so they know they can go to them if they needed to, so that’s probably my favorite part, that it’s the cops giving back.”
As the happy children made their way to the checkout line, the hearts of officers and volunteers were touched at the generosity and selflessness of the children.
“What really amazes me… kids want to shop for others. It’s just not all about them. They want to give for others and that’s what’s amazing to watch. It’s just something special,” Johnson said. “That’s always reassuring, knowing our next generation are at least thinking of others already. There’s hope.”
“Their spirit – he’s buying for her. She’s buying for him. You hear it from all over… they’re buying for other people and it’s just unbelievable,” Mashburn said.
At the end of the evening, the spirit of Christmas was alive and well for Tina Wilson as she expressed her thankfulness for the event that is giving her granddaughter Jacelyn a special Christmas.
“(Shop with a Cop is) one of the most fantastic things that we ever had happen to us,” Wilson said. “We can’t hardly afford Christmas this year. As a matter of fact I can’t afford it, but all this is making my granddaughter have a wonderful Christmas.”
It has been difficult year for Jacelyn, who is battling Neurofibromatosis Type 1. She went to Disney World as a VIP guest for a week thanks to Burt’s Big Adventure on 99.7, and Make-A-Wish has also contacted the family to help make her dreams come true.
“This is a wonderful Christmas due to this topping it off,” Wilson said.
It was a rewarding experience, not just for the children, but for all who were touched by the generosity and compassion of the community who donated to make Shop with a Cop a reality once again this year.
Capt. White said it best: “I don’t think there’s no greater gift than to see a smile on a kid’s face.”