The program, called “Shop with a Cop,” brings several agencies together to help the kids, including the Cedar City Police Department, Utah Highway Patrol, Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Iron County Dispatch, Iron County Ambulance, Iron County Search & Rescue, Cedar City Fire Department, Beaver County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and more.
Many of the volunteers’ spouses and other family members also helped.
The children are chosen through recommendations from the schools, and the list is organized and coordinated by the Iron County Safety Solutions Coalition.
The morning begins at 6 a.m. as the children and emergency personnel meet at Wal-Mart, and each child is assigned to a volunteer. They then ride in police cars, fire trucks, and other emergency vehicles with sirens blaring and lights flashing.
They arrive at Canyon View High School and are served breakfast by the Lady Elks and Bikers Against Child Abuse.
After breakfast, they go back to Wal-Mart where they grab a cart and get shopping. The volunteers help the children choose what they want to purchase, and keep track of the money. Each child gets a $100 gift card plus a gift certificate from the Elks for a pair of shoes.
Cedar City Police Sgt. David Bulloch said they didn’t raise as much as last year, but they were still able to help nearly 100 kids.
He said the level of giving is amazing. Officers give of their time and often pull money out of their own pockets to help cover overages, and a large group of volunteers turns out to wrap the gifts. The Lady Elks provide breakfast, with help from BACA, and Wal-Mart donates the wrapping paper, refreshments for the volunteers, pictures with Santa Claus, $1,000, and has staff members on hand to help.
The restaurants who allow them to have the Tip-a-Cop events, including Applebee’s, Chili’s, Lupita’s, and Winger’s, are a huge help as well.
“This doesn’t happen without all these people stepping forward and volunteering their time,” Bulloch said.
Helen Rosso, Safety Solutions Coalition project director, said in an e-mail that the interaction between volunteers and the children, all between ages 5 and 13, is another great aspect of the event.
“The program is unique because, unlike most Christmas charity programs, the kids get to pick out their gifts, and get to interact with (emergency services) personnel,” she said.
The children can spend their gift cards on anything they would like, and many of the children are very unselfish in their shopping, choosing gifts for siblings, parents, and other loved ones.
Cedar City Police Lt. Keith Millett said he has been participating in Shop with a Cop since it started about 20 years ago. His wife, Marsha, was there as well. She said she has come for the past four years, and it helps when his is shopping with a little girl, like this year.
The spunky 5 year old they were shopping with was very excited about the toy horse, “baby,” and singing Barbie she was getting.
“It kind of makes your Christmas to see the smiles on their faces,” Keith Millett said.
Cedar City Police Detective Nate Williams had a special opportunity at the event to use a skill that is often valuable in his job. He speaks Spanish, and was able to shop with a young boy with autism who only spoke Spanish. He said it was a great experience for him to be able to spend time with the boy, who was getting a bike with his gift card, and communicate with him.