‘Shop with a Cop’ delivers smiles, fun, spirit of giving

Parowan Police Officer Mike Berg puts a new helmet on Aaron to go with the new bike he bought him during the Shop with a Cop event, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY – Santa laid out his clothes and shined his boots Friday night preparing for the next day. Five a.m. comes early for the jolly ole’ elf but besides Christmas, the annual “Shop with a Cop” event is his second biggest day of the season and he knows there are nearly 100 kids expecting him.

Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams poses with the child he was paired with at the Shop with a Cop event. St. George, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News
Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams poses with the child he was paired with at the Shop with a Cop event, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News

Saturday morning Santa slept in just a little past his scheduled alarm but he was still up and ready to go when it came time to load the helicopter for his destination – Cedar City Wal-Mart.

Santa was a little nervous as he sat in the helicopter waiting to be transported. He’s done this probably more than a million times but he still worries a little hoping he can share the Spirit of Christmas with all the children he encounters that day.

“This entire event is about giving and you want the children to take that spirit of giving away with them when they go,” Santa Claus said. “But it’s not always easy to do that. Some of these kids carry the responsibility of the world on their shoulders and we don’t know what they’re carrying so we just hope that we can somehow we lighten that load a little bit, even for the day.”

Santa knows though that where he may fall short in spreading holiday cheer, the 80 plus police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and volunteers will make up the difference with these children as they spend the morning hours shopping with them.

Shop with a Cop is a coordinated effort spearheaded by Cedar City Police Department and organized by Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack with the help of several volunteers.

“There are so many volunteers,” Womack said. “There’s no way we could do this without all the volunteers that make it happen. There are so many I always hesitate to start naming them in fear I’ll leave someone out because there are that many and I don’t ever want to forget about anyone.”

Santa Claus poses for photos with the kids during the Shop with a Cop event Saturday. St. George, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News
Santa Claus poses for photos with the kids during the Shop with a Cop event Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News

This year, student athletes from Southern Utah University volunteered to help with the event.

“With all the national media attention of bad relationships with law enforcement, we thought we were in a really unique place and we wanted to show our student athletes that we can have a good relationship with our police,” Debbie Corum, senior associate athletic director for SUU, said. “So, we wanted to incorporate our athletes with law enforcement so we could strengthen that relationship between the athletes and the police.”

SUU first got involved earlier in the holiday season when local law enforcement and firefighters paired up with some of the student athletes to pass around buckets as a fundraiser during the recent home basketball game against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The event brought in about $1,600.

The addition of the T-birds will continue in the coming years, Womack said.

“We really appreciated their help and this was such a positive thing for them and us,” Womack said.

For many of the children, the Shop with a Cop event makes the difference in having Christmas, Womack said, adding that for some families, without this event there would be no presents under the tree.

Leisa Worthern, who is raising her grandchildren, said Shop with a Cop made all the difference this year in whether her 5 and 9-year-old were going to get Christmas.

SUU Thunderbirds help wrap gifts Saturday at the Shop with a Cop event. St. George, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News
SUU Thunderbirds help wrap gifts Saturday at the Shop with a Cop event, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News

“This is a tremendous help, especially this year. Money has been really really tight for us so I’m pretty excited that they got to do this,” Worthern said.

The morning of the Shop with a Cop event started at around 6:30 a.m. when the children first arrived at Wal-Mart and paired with an officer or other emergency responder for the day.

Authorities loaded up the kids in their police cars, ambulances and firetrucks and headed over to Canyon View High School via Interstate 15 with sirens and lights ablaze all the way.

“The kids have a lot of fun clicking the buttons and turning things on and off to see how it all works inside a police vehicle,” Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Schlosser said. “For some of these kids riding in the cop car or truck is the funnest part. I know we as officers have a lot of fun too. It makes us feel like kids all over again.”

As is tradition, the Lady Elks cooked the group breakfast at the high school. Like in previous years, the Cedar City Elks Lodge also provided $20 vouchers for each of the children to buy shoes.

After eating breakfast, the group headed back to Wal-Mart via Main Street at around 7:30 a.m. – again with sirens and lights fully activated.

Back at Walmart, the helicopter from the SUU Aviation Program landed with Santa Claus in the store’s parking lot where 93 children greeted Saint Nick with cheers and laughter.

For the next three hours, Santa took photos with the kids and attentively listened to their Christmas wishes – one after another.

From there, the children armed with a $100 gift card ran through the aisles scavenging the shelves for their gifts.

The children have the freedom to use the money to purchase whatever they want. For some, the money is earmarked for family members while others use their gift card to purchase a few things for themselves and for mom and dad.

Cedar City Officers have fun watching the kids pick out their gifts during the Shop with a Cop event Saturday. St. George, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News
Cedar City Officers have fun watching the kids pick out their gifts during the Shop with a Cop event Saturday, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 10, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News

It’s not just the families and the children who benefit from Shop with a Cop, the officers also look forward to this special day. For them, seeing the smiles on the children’s faces offers a reprieve from the “other stuff” they deal with all year long.

“I couldn’t sleep last night I was so excited to get here,” Parowan Police Officer Mike Berg said. “It was like Christmas. This is something I look forward to all year long. With all the stuff we deal with throughout the year, this event rejuvenates me and helps to keep me going another year.”

Berg and his wife, Melinda, make the event a family affair bringing all three of their children to help shop and wrap the gifts. The Berg family also spends some of their own money as they know sometimes $100 doesn’t go nearly far enough.

This year the family’s money went to buy a bike for 11-year-old Aaron, the boy Berg had been paired with that morning.

“This boy (Aaron) lives about seven miles from the school he attends and right now he’s walking so I wanted to get him a bike that he can ride to school,” Berg said. “And how cool is that going to be for him when he shows up to school with a brand new bike after Christmas? It’s exciting and I think I get more excited than the kids do sometimes.”

Walking toward the check-out lines with his bike in tow, Aaron called the gift the best one of the day.

“I have a bike at home but it’s broken so I can’t ride it,” he said. “I’m so excited. I didn’t think I would get a bike because they’re so expensive. Officer Berg is awesome.”

Some of the officers Saturday were at the event for the first time, including Iron County Sheriff Deputy Brenda Pires.

A former jailer at the Iron County Correctional Facility, Pires recently transferred to the patrol unit at the sheriff’s office after graduating police academy.

Pires was paired with two children – a brother and a sister – both she said were shy for a little while before opening up.

Pires said earlier in the day she was having a lot of fun with the kids. Later that afternoon, however, her joy was coupled with gratitude when she returned the children to their mom and saw the thankfulness she had for the event and the deputy.

“When I brought the kids back to their mom, she started crying and hugged me,” Pires said. “It made it all worth it. Today was one of the perks of this job. Today made me so happy. Things like this are really what Christmas is all about – helping the community – and it was great to part of it.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • .... December 11, 2016 at 12:30 am

    This is absolutely fantastic news and I’m sure this will result in a positive reaction from the community and I would like to thank all those involved in making this possible.

    • ladybugavenger December 11, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Merry Christmas imposter dot. I hope you have a safe new year.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of the St George news staff and readers. Have a safe New Year!

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