Sgt. Shane Henson was one of many Dawson County Sheriffs officers and volunteers on hand to assist Dawson County children with their shopping during the annual Shop-with- a-Cop event.
Where do you wanna go? Henson excitedly asked his group of kids. Aaron, 6, had just one word: Toys!
You wanna go to toys first? Henson asked. Allrighty, toys it is! As Henson and his shoppers started down the first toy aisle, he shouted, All right, show me what you want, and Ill get it! Immediately, Aaron started jumping and pointed to the top shelf. As Henson was pulling a big box down, Aaron stood still, his sparkling eyes fixated on the box with his arms wide open as he anxiously waited. As he placed the huge box across Aarons small arms, Henson turned and said, I love it. I just love it!
Henson wasnt the only officer soaking up the moment. Every aisle was full of officers, wearing princess crowns and soldiers helmets, with arms filled with animal print headphones, Barbie dolls, and Star Wars action figures. It was clear they were not concerned about being perceived as an officer their mission lied solely in bringing a smile to the faces of children.
Its an opportunity for us to mingle with the kids a little bit and give back to our community, said Maj. Greg Rowan with the Dawson County Sheriffs Office. It makes me feel good to see a smile on their faces.
The toy aisles of Walmart in Dawsonville were resonating with childrens laughter and squeals of excitement as they searched for the most perfect presents.
And, thanks to donations of $8,300 from local schools, businesses and individuals, the annual Shop-with-A-Cop event provided presents for over 70 children.
Sheriff Billy Carlisle said many of the children nominated do not qualify for Christmas assistance provided by other charities.
We talk to the teachers and counselors at the school system, Carlisle said. They are the ones who work with these kids everyday and know what kind of challenges and hardships they have and what their needs are.
We are reaching children who might otherwise not have a resource.
Unlike many other charitable organizations, the childrens nomination is not based on answers to questions on an application. Children are nominated based on changes in family circumstances such as a job loss, death of a parent or sibling, a change in living arrangements or other special situations.
Rowan said these children just need an extra hand.
For many children nominated to participate, the shopping trip was a guaranteed way to get exactly what they asked Santa for.
But for many others, it was the perfect opportunity to secretly shop for their loved ones.
Rowan said the childrens selfless gestures are moving.
I think I am speaking on behalf of all when I say the most heartfelt moments are when these kids buy for their family members and not for themselves, he said. That says a lot about the kid and where their priorities are.
Shop-with-A-Cops success was due to donations received by John Lundy and the Robinson Elementary School Art Department, Walmart, Chestatee Mens Golf Association, Dawson County Middle School and other private donations.
This year, John Lundys Christmas art shop grossed $4,000 for Shop-with-A-Cop funding.
My plan was to continue the art sale for about three weeks, but we sold everything in about a week, Lundy said. After placing $1,000 of the donations into an account used to purchase supplies for next years art sale, the remaining funds were presented to the sheriffs office. It was this years largest single contribution.
Theyre making fun of me because Ive already started making stuff for next year, Lundy said. It was a huge success, and I am looking forward to next years sale.
This is the second year the Chestatee Mens Golf Association has supported Shop-with-A-Cop. Last year, the Association held a successful golf fundraiser, the Rudolph the Red Tee Tournament. The association had plans to repeat last years successful event that raised $1,000.
Last year we had fine weather and a strong turnout for the event, said Byron Hock, chairman of Chestatee MGA. This year we were faced with horrible rains that forced the cancellation of the golf outing and the committee decided that we couldnt leave the children without a Christmas.
The MGA committee sponsored a lunch with games, gifts and raffles.
Im very proud to say the MGA committee reacted to adversity and pulled success out of the jaws of failure, and thanks to the participants who opened the hearts and wallets to the children of Dawson County, we came up with $1,300.
Sheriff Carlisle said he is appreciative of the communitys support of Shop-with-a-Cop.
We are very grateful for the outpouring of the community and what they did to help these kids out, he said.