Sirens, Santa and smiles helped make the 10th annual Shop With a Cop program a success for about 50 children and their law enforcement or emergency personnel partners.
Traffic halted briefly Saturday morning along Arsenal Street so officers from various local police departments, the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, the Watertown Fire Department and other organizations could follow each other from the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building, 753 Waterman Drive, to Walmart Supercenter, Route 3, where all children were given a $150 gift card to buy presents.
Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns said the program started a decade ago, with 10 children who each got a $40 gift card to spend, to teach children law enforcement and emergency personnel arent just people who help in bad situations.
You dont have to be afraid of us, Mr. Burns said is the message sent to each child.
Young participants, from ages 4 to 10, were anything but that during the event. Some walked hand in hand with police officers, while others pushed their carts full of items as their partners stood close by.
I have six people in my family, so Ill need two more, said Laila Totive, 8, who already had selected a toy for herself and gifts for a few siblings.
Watertown police Officer Amanda L. Gauthier helped Laila search for green headphones before Laila settled on three pairs of green earbuds. Laila, who wore Ms. Gauthiers hat throughout the store, also selected a Minnie Mouse doll for her baby sister, because she says Minnie, Mickey all the time.
Laila picked out only one toy a Monster High doll for herself.
Many other children showed their selflessness, such as Cassie Babcock, 6, who was escorted by Jefferson County Sheriffs Deputy Krystal G. Rice. Cassie picked out toys for her siblings, and a Hello Kitty Dream Lite for herself because she said shes afraid of the dark.
In her ninth year participating in Shop With a Cop, Ms. Rice said seeing childrens faces as they realize they get to pick out, and bring home, a brand new toy or gift is priceless.
It (melts) your heart to have to say no, and this is the one time we have the ability, through donations and people who support the program, the one time where we can say yes. Ms. Rice said.
Joseph D. Plummer, Jefferson County director of fire and emergency management, said its a day of pure fun. He guided Emma Daniels, 7, through Walmart.
I shopped for my family, she said. I got my mom and sister a candle, and my other sister a puzzle, and my brother a basketball.
Shortly after the mad dash for the toy, clothing and electronics departments, one young boy selected an LED angel decoration for his mother, while 5-year-old Landon Kern was in awe of the variety of new toys in the boys toy aisle.
I got a toy dump truck, he told a friend.
He was accompanied by Sheldon M. Moot, a sergeant with the Fort Drum Police Department, who participated in Shop With a Cop for the first time. Mr. Moot said when he explained to Landon how the day would work, he asked him whom he wanted to buy gifts for and what he wanted for himself.
He said, No, I want to buy you something, Mr. Moot said. It just breaks your heart.
Joseph Pete, 7, bought practical items for family members, such as clothing, pajamas and shampoo. Paired with Jefferson County Sheriffs Deputy Christopher J. Kamide II, Joseph said his favorite part of the day was riding in the patrol car, and playing with Mr. Kamides handcuffs.
Four checkout lanes were reserved for the program, and after children paid, they went with their partners to Sams Club for pizza, soda, cupcakes, a visit with Santa, a brand new coat and winter wear and a gift bag.
Jennifer Grant watched as her son, Matthew, 7, sat on Santas lap.
Its a relief, she said of the program. Im a single mom, and things are tight. This is awesome.
Jefferson County Sheriffs Department training coordinator Joseph J. Elmer said Shop With a Cop was made possible because of support from about two dozen sponsors, and 65 volunteers, including Walmart and Sams Club employees.
This is part of our Christmas, Mr. Elmer said.