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Shop With A Cop

By Staff | Dec 22, 2015

CHUCK BALLARO Cape Coral Police Officer Danny Gray shops with Samantha Monarrez, 9, during the 13th annual “Shop with a Cop” event at Wal-Mart on Monday.

More than 40 kids got an opportunity to do what many of them would not have had the money to do otherwise; finish up Christmas shopping with the help of Cape Coral’s finest.

On Monday, the Cape Coral Police Department held its 13th annual “Shop with a Cop” event, where 41 kids from across the city got an opportunity to buy gifts for themselves and their loved ones.

It proved to be a day that is not only rewarding for the kids, who may not have had much of a Christmas without this, but also for CCPD personnel, who the kids get to see in a different light.

“This gives us an opportunity to reach out to kids in our community and make a connection with them that transcends the day,” Public Affairs Officer Dana Coston said. “We hope it builds a lasting relationship with those when they become adults.”

More than 100 kids were nominated, many of whom have fallen on hard times, such as the death of a parent or that they simply can’t afford Christmas, Coston said.

Cape Coral Police Officer Kelvin Thompkins with Sophia Vavila, 15, during the 13th annual “Shop with a Cop” event at Wal-Mart on Monday.

The day began early with breakfast at McDonald’s. They then went to the Wal-Mart on Del Prado to take a group photo before getting their shopping carts to spend the $50 gift cards they received on gifts for mom, dad, brother and sister.

Officer Steve Kragan said he was there so Lasha Shultis, 14, could pick up gifts for her loved ones.

“It’s exciting. It’s the best time of the year. I’m glad I’m able to help out a family and spend time with them,” Kragan said.

Shultis eventually enjoyed it, but not without some reservations at first.

“It’s pretty cool because first I was scared because I don’t like cops,” Shultis said before cracking up in laughter. “There was a SWAT near my house one time so that was scary.”

Cape Coral Police Sgt. Ray Schilke battles Camden Burchetta, 10, with light sabers during the 13th annual “Shop with a Cop” event at Wal-Mart on Monday.

From there, it was on to the police station, where they wrapped the presents before stopping for pizza, a movie and a treat before the child was brought back home early in the afternoon.

Sgt. Patrick O’Grady enjoyed the opportunity to be with a child and buy gifts for the family.

“They don’t see us doing things like this very often. The kids watch the news and all they see is us being bad, so they get to hang out in the car, we take them to McDonald’s, and have a good time and decide we’re not the bad guys,” O’Grady said.

Even Police Chief Bart Connelly went shopping. He said it is crucial to start building relationship with these kids.

“You want to start when kids are young so they know we’re human beings, we’re friends and that we’re working together to make each other better and the community as a whole,” Connelly said. “We provide them with the spirit of Christmas that they may not have had without this.”

The “Shop with a Cop” participants get together for a group photo outside the Wal-Mart on Del Prado Boulevard.

As for the kids, they loved going out, Christmas list in tow, to buy presents for loved ones. In fact, it became apparent that many of them spent little or no money on themselves.

Sophia Vavila, 15, was with Officer Kelvin Thompkins, who took part in his 13th and last Shop with a Cop, and was honored to be a part of it.

“It’s such a good thing they’re doing. I’m shopping for my brother and my dad,” Vavila said.

Samantha Monerrez, 9, was happy to be chosen over a myriad of others who applied. She got to shop with Officer Danny Gray and said it was fun, though she still didn’t think he was like an average guy.

“I was worried at first. I was scared of cops. But, it’s fun. I get to hang out with a police officer,” Samantha said. “I’m shopping for my sister.”

Jocelyn Arroyo, 15, found shopping with a cop to be a nice experience as she shopped for her mom, aunt and sibs.

“It’s great to be able to shop for the family. I found out that (Det. David Gleason) is a normal person, too. He’s really nice,” Arroyo said. “I learned they’re really generous and they give back to the community while protecting us.”