Area police take nearly 80 children holiday shopping
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
The dozens of children who participated in the Shop with a Cop program Saturday morning were treated to a special experience before they even got to the store.
A multi-agency collaboration consisting of law enforcement from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and the Maryville and Alcoa police departments lined up to escort the children from the Blount County Justice Center to the Alcoa Walmart.
The annual Shop with a Cop program, sponsored by the local Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), took nearly 80 children Christmas shopping this year. While there were a few 10-year-olds in the mix, a majority of this year’s shoppers were six or seven years old, said FOP president and Maryville Police Officer Laramy Gregory.
“We try to take the younger kids so they can have a shopping experience while they’re still young,” Gregory said.
Most were first time shoppers with the program as well, he added.
“This year we tried to take kids that have never participated before,” Gregory said. “We really stressed new children this year.”
The program chooses children based on need and then invites them to do their Christmas shopping with area law enforcement. While the main purpose of the program is for children to buy presents for themselves, some chose to spend some of their $190 allotment to buy gifts for family members as well.
“I did see one child that did purchase a piece of jewelry for their mother,” Gregory said. “So the kids do take the opportunity to purchase presents for their family members in addition to themselves.”
There were other children who bought toys for siblings and, in addition to toys, there were kids who purchased clothes for the upcoming year.
The program has grown throughout the years thanks to partnerships, community donations and the annual “Slim Fest” event that raises money for the Shop with a Cop program, Gregory said. Every month during the year, two children are chosen out of the Boys and Girls Club to go shopping with law enforcement at the Maryville Walmart as part of the Shop with a Cop program.
This year Saturday’ event was dedicated to the late Alcoa Police Officer Ed Bowman, who died of natural causes earlier this year and was a strong supporter and participant in the program. Bowman’s daughter, Cheyenne Bowman, accepted a plaque at the event Saturday morning on behalf of her father’s dedication.
“This year was kind of special to us because we lost Ed Bowman with the Alcoa Police Department, and he participated in the program every year,” Gregory said. “This year we named the Shop with a Cop in honor of him.”