‘Shop With a Cop’ returns to bring Christmas cheer to nearly 200 children

ST. GEORGE — An event that has been a holiday staple for decades returned in full force, as law enforcement officers from all over Washington and Iron counties escorted nearly 200 children on a Christmas adventure that consisted of a warm breakfast and a shopping spree.

Officers from St. George, Dixie State Police and Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department join their junior partners for breakfast during the annual Shop With a Cop event, St. George, Utah, Dec. 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News

Residents throughout the area woke up early Saturday morning to the sound of sirens as law enforcement officers activated their “cherries and berries” to take local children to a breakfast and to one of several Walmarts for their annual “Shop With a Cop” event – which was made even more special since the time-honored tradition of pairing up was canceled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions that were in place.

Washington County Chief Deputy Brock Bentley told St. George News that after missing out on the holiday shopping spree last year, everyone involved found a way to make sure it happened this year.

“It was definitely good to be back and doing this again with the kids,” he added.

To that end, agencies throughout Washington County teamed up into four groups. This was a change from years past when officers from multiple agencies descended upon the Hurricane Police Department to meet their junior partners. From there, the caravan would make its way to Legacy Park in Hurricane for a warm breakfast before heading out for the shopping extravaganza.

This year, one team was made up of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah Highway Patrol and everyone met in the conference room of the sheriff’s office for a hearty McDonald’s breakfast and donuts – a menu that was a big hit with the kids. “Especially the donuts,” Bentley said.

Officers in St. George coordinated with Santa Clara-Ivins Police and Dixie State University Police officers as the procession of police cars made its way to Dixie Technical College. There, the officers met their junior retail partners in the dining room for breakfast that was prepared by the culinary arts department.

Officers in Washington City help their junior partners at Walmart during annual Shop With a Cop event, Washington City, Utah, Dec. 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Washington City Police Department, St. George News

Officers with the Hurricane Police Department joined forces with police from LaVerkin, Springdale, the Colorado City Marshals Office and the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. Agents from Adult Probation and Parole, the Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Parks and Zion National Park rangers also participated.

Hurricane Police Officer Dan Raddatz told St. George News the officers and their junior law enforcement officers met at Hurricane High School, where everyone enjoyed breakfast before heading out to shop.

Raddatz went on to say the parents were excited that their child would have the opportunity to ride in a police car and shop with an officer, elements the children missed out on last year.

The Washington City Police Department met their junior partners at Washington Fields Intermediate School, where the cafeteria staff cooked up a warm breakfast before everyone headed to the Washington City Walmart with lights and sirens blaring, Washington City Police Lt. Kory Klotz said.

It was an early morning for the school’s cafeteria staff that volunteered to cook for the group on their own time, Klotz said, and added the food was donated by the school as well.

Providing breakfast for the children and their uniformed partners ensures the pair are fueled up for the shopping excursion, and also provides a little time for them to get to know one another.

From there, it was a “Code 3” convoy with lights and sirens activated all the way to one of three Walmart stores — Hurricane, Washington City and St. George — armed with a gift card and a list of “wants, and some needs, but mostly wants,” Bentley said.

Shop With a Cop in Iron County

Multiple agencies throughout Iron County participate in annual Shop With a Cop event, at Walmart in Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Cedar City Police Department, St. George News/ Cedar City News

The Iron County event also took place on Saturday, where 80 children participated. The names of the children are provided by the school district. After being paired with a law enforcement officer, fireman, EMS worker or dispatcher, each child was whisked away to have breakfast at Canyon View High School, where members of the Cedar City Elks Lodge had prepared a feast of sausage and eggs.

Then began the festive trek down Main Street to the Cedar City Walmart, where each child received a $150 gift card upon arrival at the store and were told to pick out whatever they wanted in the entire store – from toys and electronics to clothes and shoes.

Santa also made a guest appearance for photos with the kids, Cedar City Police Sgt. Clint Pollock said. Pollock was responsible for coordinating the program this year, as he has done for the last three years.

Hundreds of officers, agents and children participate in the program that is supported by businesses, community and academic groups throughout Iron County, as well as every law enforcement agency and fire department in the region. The Iron County Attorney’s Office, Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Division of State Forestry also participated in the holiday festivities.

Multiple agencies throughout Iron County participate in annual Shop With a Cop event, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Cedar City Police Department, St. George News/ Cedar City News

In addition to the gift card, each child received a gift certificate from the Lady Elks to purchase a pair of shoes, and Southern Utah University’s athletic program provided support with all of the wrapping and shopping for the children, Pollack said.

Last year, once the school district provided the names of the children in need, each child sent an emailed list of the items they wanted for Christmas. The merchandise was then purchased by the officers, rangers and agents and then hand-delivered to the child’s home.

These children were still taken care of during Christmas last year, Pollock said, but it was great to get together to eat and shop with the children this year.

It is hoped the experience of shopping for toys alongside Washington and Iron County’s finest will instill in each child a positive experience with law enforcement that will carry into their adolescence and adulthood.

Shop With a Cop

The program started in 1989 when a small group of officers passed around a hat and collected money to take a single child in need shopping for toys. From there, the program has grown to include thousands of kids that are paired up with a law enforcement officer for a shopping spree to ensure that child wakes up on Christmas morning to find gifts under the tree.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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