It’s every child’s fantasy: going on a free shopping spree in a well-stocked department store where toys, as well as necessities such as clothing, are there for the taking.
But this soon will be reality, and not a dream, when the annual Cops and Kids Christmas shopping event is held by the Surry County Chapter of the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
The idea is to pair up a group of underprivileged children with law enforcement officers who assist them in selecting desired items at Walmart.
These are kids who otherwise wouldn’t have such an opportunity. Yet thanks to the public — the support of which is being sought again this year — the shopping spree has been occurring for “I’m going to say 20-plus years,” said Kelly Hiatt of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“We spend $150 on each kid,” added Hiatt, a lieutenant with the Mount Airy Police Department who is the chief organizer of the event. The local FOP includes members of that department as well as others in Surry and surrounding counties. This year, the cops will shop with the children on Dec. 7 at Walmart.
“The kids meet us there and we actually shop with them,” Hiatt emphasized. “They spend about half (of the $150) on clothing or other necessities and the other half on toys or whatever they might want.”
About 20 youngsters usually are involved, who are recommended for the program by counselors at local schools with an awareness of those in need — lacking a bright outlook for Christmas.
“Some of these kids probably wouldn’t have a Christmas as far as getting things,” Hiatt said of what they might face if the shopping spree didn’t exist.
Businesses and individuals in the community have always been generous in their support of the Cops and Kids program, and sponsorships for the children are again sought this year.
“Because all the money we spend on the kids comes from donations,” Hiatt said.
Along with the shopping, Walmart — which usually sponsors some of the children — provides drinks and chips for a lunch held in a special room at the store for the kids and officers, featuring sandwiches supplied by the Subway restaurant there.
Sponsorships for the Cops and Kids Christmas shopping event can be arranged through Kelly Hiatt at 429-8480. Donations to assist the program also may be mailed to Surry County Fraternal Order of Police, P.O. Box 811, Dobson, NC, 27017.
Officers Benefit, Too
An obvious plus of the program, besides the shopping excursion, is the opportunity for positive interaction between the children and local law enforcement officers.
In spending such quality time together, the kids learn officers are their friends and can be trusted to help with problems that might arise in the future. A lasting bond of friendship can be built by the rapport established during the shopping trip.
And although they don’t get toys, the FOP members who participate receive something just as valuable from their experience, according to Hiatt.
“It just warms your heart that you’re able to help somebody,” he said of a feeling commonly shared among them.
“Even our rough and tough officers, you can see where it warms their heart.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.