ROCKINGHAM — Shoppers checking out at Walmart were met with a surprise Friday afternoon when seven Rockingham police officers and seven children walked in — buggies in-hand — to do some holiday shopping.
In its second year, the Shop with a Cop program is the brainchild of Officer Jan Owens, according to Police Chief Billy Kelly. All the kids were selected from different local schools with help from counselors.
First on the agenda for the day, however, was a stop at Twisted Treats in the Richmond Plaza Shopping Center, where everybody was treated to some frozen eats free of charge. This gave Kelly and the other officers a chance to talk to the kids about good grades and staying out of trouble.
“The children were very thankful for that,” said Kelly.
Once inside Walmart, it was a dash to different departments where each child was allowed to spend up to $200 for their families and themselves.
The money was collected through a grant from the Rockingham Rotary Club, as well as donations from Cascades and Superior Cranes.
“Without their help and Jan Owens, none of this would be possible,” Kelly said.
Paired with officers, everyone began their shopping experience in the toy aisles where Walmart associates accompanied each team to help keep track of the potential purchases. LEGO toys, baby dolls, board games and lightsabers were popular choices for the youngsters.
Others made their way to the electronics section, while L.J. Bell student Mareli Plata and Kelly wheeled over to the apparel aisles to find Plata a new wardrobe.
For Kelly, the Shop with a Cop program is one that he hopes will continue well into the future — because it’s not only beneficial for the children, but also for his officers.
“This is an excellent program here at Christmas,” said Kelly, “and it gives the officers a chance to hang out with the kids.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.