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Shop with a Cop

By Staff | Dec 23, 2014

There were a lot of Cape Coral police officers at the Wal-Mart on Del Prado Boulevard Monday morning.

Not to worry. Nothing bad happened (though it sure felt safer having them around). They were just spending the morning shopping for Christmas presents with area children who might otherwise have a bleak holiday.

For the 12 th year, the department held its annual “Shop with a Cop” event, where 40 city children spent a good part of the day Christmas shopping for family members, wrapping gifts and having a pizza party when all the work was done.

For the kids, it was a chance to see the police in a totally different light. For the police, it was a way to give back to the community and have some fun.

“It’s just as good for the officers as it is for the children. They see so many bad things on a day-to-day basis that to do something good for them makes us feel good ourselves,” Police Chief Bart Connelly said.

About 125 kids were nominated throughout the year, many of them who have come to bad times, such as the death of a parent or that they cannot afford a decent holiday.

“When we put out the call, when you read some of the stories of what’s happened, whether it’s illness or death in the family, it tugs at your heartstrings,” said Dana Coston, CCPD information officer. “You wish you could have everyone go out with the officers.”

Of them, 40 got to spend the day with the officers, starting with free breakfast at McDonald’s before getting a ride in a patrol car to Wal-Mart, where they spent more than an hour buying presents for their loved ones, paid for with gift cards donated by those in the community.

The more people these kids were buying for, the more gift cards they received, Connelly said, adding that some kids were shopping for as many as seven people.

From there, it was on to the police station, where they wrapped presents like pros with the help of community volunteers such as the Defenders Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, ate pizza and watched the movie “Frozen.”

They were also entered into a raffle for an X-Box entertainment unit.

Kelsey Sandford, 12, was shopping for six family members. She said she was happy to learn she was accepted, as now she could shop for family, which she doesn’t do otherwise.

She also said the officers were different than what she expected.

“They’re nice and they’re funny. I thought they’d be serious and not funny,” Sandford said.

Once they took their group shot at Wal-Mart, it was on to the toys department, or electronics, or clothing.

Rashawn Rucker, 7, went old school when he bought the classic game “Don’t Spill the Beans,” while others chose to give the gift of music, clothes or whatever the family member needed or wanted.

Faith Vella, 14, of Challenger Middle School, got some compact discs for her dad among other items for her five-person list of giftees.

“It was cool they were paying for Christmas presents for my family. I think the cops are cool. I want to be one when I get older,” Vella said. “It’s cool to be around them.”

Alena Nayak, community outreach projects coordinator, said those who weren’t chosen went to the Fill the Boat program, where officers dropped off gifts for the kids before Christmas, so nobody got left out.

“The police have become their friend as opposed to coming for a bad reason, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Nayak said.