“It’s a chance to help the kids and see a smile on their faces.”
That’s what Reserve Deputy Rick Hirtzel, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, said has kept him coming back to help with the Cops and Kids program for at least 20 years.
Feeling the joy from seeing kids’ smiling faces was a common thread among the law enforcement volunteers Saturday morning at the Seymour Walmart Supercenter.
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Chris Price was there with her grandchildren, Eli Lara, 11 and Ashlynn Lara, 12, and great-niece and great-nephew, Jordan Lara, 12 and Alexa Fernandez, 7.
Eli said he was glad to be there because he likes police officers.
“It’ll be a good day,” Eli said. “I will be looking for a big set of dinosaurs.”
Jordan said he is into the Marvel characters and Star Wars and might be looking for a Nerf gun, too.
“I’m going to look for something for my cat, Honey Bear,” and maybe some toys,” Ashlynn said. “The last time I spent time with policemen was in the fifth grade for DARE.”
Ashlynn went on to say that she thought the Cops and Kids shopping day was going to be better than Christmas itself.
Price said she usually helps with the kids’ Christmas, but she has cancer and isn’t able to this time.
“This shopping program means a lot to me because the kids’ mom is not working,” she said. “Also, my great niece and nephew, their mom has a pinched nerve and can’t walk right now.”
Ron Henderson was there with his 8-year-old grandson, Ealiejah Henderson.
“I remember 20 years ago, the school used to come over to the house and bring Christmas for our kids,” Ron said. “So for him to get picked for this, it’s a big deal and he’s a good boy.”
This year, 53 kids and 26 families were served, down from last year’s 127 kids and 58 families. Each kid had $200 to spend, which was an increase from $150 last year.
Seymour Police Department Detective Sgt. C.J. Foster is president of Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 and leads the Cops and Kids program, which used to be known as Shop with a Cop.
“Due to COVID, everybody’s fundraisers were down a little this year,” Foster said. “We were able to have the car show earlier in the year which helped a lot.”
The fifth annual FOP Pre-Scoop Cruise-In and Car Show held this summer proved to be a success and raised a little more than $15,000 for the Cops and Kids program despite taking place during the pandemic.
Foster said besides the car show, the FOP Lodge 108 applies for a few grants and get some donations throughout the year.
“Centra Credit Union helps with their Holiday Giving Program and Walmart Supercenter and Walmart Distribution Center provide grants,” he said. “It’s not been terrible, we’re just kind of limiting the number of people because of what’s going on.”
Foster anticipated around $13,000 being spent Saturday morning. Along with what each child had on his or her shopping list, a turkey was provided to each family too.
“We usually do a food box for the families but Walmart has had trouble getting some of the food in and on the shelves,” Foster said. “The virus has really put a damper on everything.”
The whole group of families participating in Cops and Kids this year are first-timers with the program, which is a good thing, Foster explained.
Officers with several law enforcement agencies were on hand Saturday to help with the event, as each kid family had one or two officers helping them shop.
That included officials from the Seymour and Brownstown police departments, the Jackson County sheriff’s departments and the Indiana State Police.
Seeing all the kids smile is great and that is the end result, but Foster said there is more to it.
“It’s also about kids having the opportunity to be around law enforcement officers and seeing that they’re good people,” he said. “It’s about making a bond and letting them know we’re here to help them.”
Seymour Lt. Brandon White said there was a specific child there for the shopping day he’s had previous interaction with recently.
“He was with his mom at a gas station and he started talking to me,” White said. “I showed him some stuff in the car and spent some time with him.”
He went on to say the boy has since come to the police department to visit and when he saw White was there on Saturday to shop, the boy said he wanted to shop with him.
Officer Greg Sims with the sheriff’s department said he enjoys helping with the program.
“Last year was probably one of the best memories I have from this,” he said. “I was helping a little boy shop and he was down to his last $20 and couldn’t think of anything else, so he asked me what I would want and that really touched me.”
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For information about the Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 Cops and Kids program, visit facebook.com/foplodge108.