For a few hours Thursday night, the aisles of Walmart’s toy section were teeming with children and police officers for the 13th annual Shop with a Cop event.
This year more than 100 children were able to pair up with a law enforcement officer and shop until they dropped, a substantial increase from last year’s event that saw nearly 80 children see their Christmas wishes fulfilled.
“It’s been a tremendous year and the community has been great,” said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson. “It’s been an outstanding year.”
Each year for the past 13 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.
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.
Because of fundraising efforts inside Dawson County Schools as well as the community’s generous donations, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office was able to provide Christmas cheer for more than 100 children this year.
But having that amount of children meant, DCSO officers needed to call for some reinforcements.
Officers from Georgia State Patrol, the Department of Natural Resources, Dawson County Emergency Services and Georgia Bureau of Investigations stepped up to assist with the shopping shenanigans.
“Just seeing the smiles,” is reason enough for officer Randy Harkness to come back year after year to help children pick out their Christmas goodies.
That sentiment was echoed by Capt. David Lingerfelt who said his favorite part of Shop with a Cop is always “seeing the kids happy, just the joy of actually being able to help give back.”
It wasn’t just officers lending a hand. Many teachers, administrators and counselors from the Dawson County School system came out to lend support to help ensure every child was able to shop to their heart’s content.
“It’s my first rodeo with this thing,” Dawson County High School choral teacher Spencer Wright said. “It was kind of mindblowing at the beginning, but once we got started we saw the joy in that little girl’s eyes when she was getting to pick out toys, it was a true blessing. It really reminds you what Christmas is really all about.”
Wright’s wife and daughters said they wanted to help out this year and he happily tagged along for the community-building experience.
“I think it’s a way that we’re able to give back as a community really with the law enforcement and the schools and Walmart. It’s just a good way to give back to these people that are really the heartbeat of our community,” Wright said. “These kids are the future and what’s going to drive everything as we move forward. If we show them love and we show them compassion and we show them giving that’s what they’ll model for the rest of their lives. It makes the world a better place.”