Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy (and German Twp. FF/EMT) Mark Lane helps a little girl pick out a toy during the “Shop With A Cop” program. William Lindsey | PHOTO

When cops show up at a retail store, it usually means someone was caught doing something very wrong. But on the icy morning of Dec. 17, Springfield’s Wal-Mart on Tuttle Road was overrun with law enforcement officers for a very happy reason. They were shopping with local children as part of the annual “Shop with a Cop” program.

Each child had their very own Cop to talk to and shop with during the event, and it was hard to tell who was more excited, the Cops or the children as they took to the aisles together to hunt down each child’s most coveted Christmas gift.

One Cop participating in event for the very first time says his favorite thing about the event was “seeing the smile on the child’s face” and “helping (the child) pick out the things he wanted the most.” His shopping buddy, Xavier, a third grader, says he had fun and that his favorite thing he picked out was a special Pokémon card set.

Other favorites among participants included a toy bird in that sings, a large Nerf gun, and Matchbox cars.

One mother says she “was nearly in tears” watching her child talking to his cop and having a good time, “Where we live, if you see a cop it always means something bad is going on...so kids kind of get scared of the police. It’s great to see (my child) having a positive experience with an officer. I also can’t believe that he is actually going to get the thing he wants most for Christmas...it’s just too wonderful and I’m really, really grateful!”

“Shop with a Cop” got its start fifteen years ago when the non-profit Ohio Troopers Caring organization started teaming up with other agencies and department stores to create the program as a way to support local families in need who can use a little extra help purchasing gifts for their children during the Christmas season.

The “Shop with a Cop” program focuses largely on the local community and partners with schools, churches, and other volunteer organizations to find qualifying families.

Local department stores agree to sponsor and host the events. Some of the department stores also donate their own funds for each child while also including food, drinks and gift wrapping to assist in the overall initiative.

Saturday’s event was a joint effort between the Ohio State Highway Patrol (in coordination with Ohio Troopers Caring), the Clark County Sheriff’s Office FOP Lodge #209, and the Walmart on Tuttle Road.

Lt. Brian Aller is with the Ohio State Patrol. He comments, “All of our agencies work together on a regular basis, but this type of hands-on event is truly what we all signed up to do as police officers, deputies, and troopers...to help those in need and make differences in our local communities.”

Seeing so many law enforcement officers in the store did unnerve some shoppers though. One young man was overheard saying to his friend, “Dude! What’s going on? The place is crawling with cops!”

The children happily shopping with their Christmas Cops would likely just smile and answer, “Our Christmas wishes are being granted, THAT’S what’s going on!”

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