Every year, local police departments across Eastern Idaho host their annual “Shop with a Cop” event. The program is geared to help families who have struggled financially, and those who have recently faced tragedy, to have a special Christmas.
Local law enforcement members select children they believe would benefit the most by the event and they notify those families. On Saturday, Dec. 8, more than 100 area police officers were sent in pairs with young children on a mission to buy Christmas gifts for the child's family.
Lieutenant Colin Erickson from the Rexburg City Police Department has overseen the event for nearly two decades. He said the goal of Shop with a Cop is to provide Christmas to families who may be going through hard times or otherwise might not get a Christmas.
That Saturday morning began as the officers met to escort their young counterparts to McDonald’s in Rexburg for breakfast. The exciting part for the children was to ride in a police car with its pursuit lights on and sirens blaring.
After breakfast, the pairs made their way to the Rexburg Walmart where each child selected gifts for each member of their immediate family. After check-out, officers helped the children wrap the gifts and prepare them for delivery.
As the pairs walked the aisles of Walmart, you could see a young boy pushing a cart twice his size. Children walked out in front of officers, leading them to the perfect gift for their family member. An even smaller young girl sat in the cart making simple pointing motions. The smiles on their faces were contagious.
Once finished, the children met up with their parents outside the front doors and went home with the presents. The event is special for the children, parents, and officers alike.
“It’s a great, great program,” said Lt. Erickson. “All the years I’ve been involved with it there’s always the unique stories that come from it and just unique connections with the kids and the families.”
One young boy who was involved in the program this year was impacted by the event. His parents said their son used to be afraid of the guns and big uniforms of the officers. Now, the boy says he wants to be a police officer when he grows up