Dawson County’s Sheriff’s officers gathered Dec. 10 at Wal-Mart, but not for security reasons.
The officers were participating in the third annual “Shop with a Cop” event to benefit local children in need this holiday season.
“We are here to help the kids,” said Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten, who organizes the event each year in conjunction with the local Wal-Mart.
Children selected to participate are elementary and middle school students, ranging in age from 5 to 14 years old.
Teachers and counselors from the local schools refer the children to the sheriff’s office. Referrals also come from KARE for Kids, a local nonprofit that works with underprivileged children.
Each child was paired with an officer and received a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to shop for anything they wanted.
“Several of the kids buy presents for their families, putting those wants or needs above their own,” Wooten said.
“This event makes Christmas better because these kids have such big hearts and it is awesome to see them give.”
At the beginning of the shopping trip, Elizabeth, 13, told Maj. Greg Rowan, she was “going to be shopping for my mom and two brothers.”
Rowan praised the seventh-grader’s decision.
“It touched my heart that she decided to spend money that was designated for her personal use to purchase gifts for others,” Rowan said. “It was heartwarming to see a child not think about herself, and instead consider the wishes of others above her own.”
Elizabeth enjoyed shopping with Rowan as they picked out various items for her family members.
Teresa, 9, had a special person on her shopping list as well.
“I want to buy this for my big sister because she used to have one just like this and I know she really misses it,” Teresa said while holding a baby doll. “I think she will like this one.”
It didn’t take long for Sarah and Madison, both 7, to fill their buggy with dolls, Barbies and games.
Their shopping experience was a process of elimination, trying to decide which toy was better.
“It is so thoughtful of Wal-Mart to fund something like this,” said Deputy Shane Jenkins. “And it’s a great opportunity for children to enjoy Christmas when they might not have a chance otherwise.”
Wal-Mart has donated $1,000 each year to fund the event, with 10 children benefiting each year.
Coupled with a private donation, 20 children were able to take part in this year’s event.
“We like to fund this particular program not only to help the kids have a better Christmas, but to also make the kids realize that officers can be their friends,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Cecil Bennett.
“We want the kids to see how friendly the officers are and that they are not always hunting people down to get them in trouble.”
A parent whose three children participated in the event was grateful.
“If it weren’t for events like this, some children would not have a Christmas,” said the woman. “This is such a wonderful thing and we are so thankful.”