50 local youngsters get chance to ‘Shop with a Cop’
For the eighth consecutive year, 50 deserving youngsters had the opportunity to “Shop with a Cop” Monday morning at Walmart on Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral.
Fifty kids are paired with 50 Cape Coral Police Officers for the event, which sees the officers helping the youngsters select gifts for their family.
All the kids come from Cape Coral schools, according Cindy Nauman, program originator and coordinator, and is open to all age groups.
Nauman said the event is a great way for the police officers to get to know the youth in the community, and vice versa.
“It’s so important, because the officers don’t have a lot of opportunities to spend one-on-one time with young people in the community,” she said.
Police officers each selected the child they were paired with, and do more than simply take the child shopping.
They start the day by picking the child up at their home in the morning. There, they have the chance to meet and talk with their parents, before making their way to Walmart where they help the child pick out gifts.
After shopping, they take the children back to the police station for lunch and a present wrapping session, before taking them back home and dropping them off at home in the afternoon.
In all, Cape Coral Police officers spend five hours of one-on-one time with the children, a facet of the program that Cape Police Capt. Lisa Barnes described as invaluable.
“It makes kids realize we’re approachable,” Barnes said. “Sometimes they’re afraid to approach us, but they find out we’re just human, like them.”
Other shoppers at Walmart are often surprised to see 50 uniformed officers in the store at one time, Barnes said, but it gives the CCPD the chance to interact with them, too.
“I love it. I tell people it’s my favorite day of the year, time to be one-on-one in a positive, fun way,” Barnes added.
Nauman said the program started as an extension of the city’s “Do The Right Thing” initiative with just 20 students and 20 police officers, but quickly “snowballed.”
The youngsters are nominated by their schools and police officers, and Nauman said several of the youth have had “real tragic events in their lives.”
While shopping and spending time with the police officers, some of those kids with difficult home lives get to take some time and just be themselves.
“The kids get to spend a couple of hours being kids,” Nauman said.
“Shop with a Cop” is made possible by the “Do the Right Thing” Program, Walmart and TIB Bank, according to Nauman.