‘Shop with a cop’ tradition continues

Master Sgt. Ernest Jepperson helps Madison choose a Barbie for a Christmas present.

Master Sgt. Ernest Jepperson helps Madison choose a Barbie for a Christmas present.

HILL AFB, UT -- Shopping for toys, dolls, video games and clothes is not part of the job for cops, but Hill and local law enforcement got together to shop for a cause Saturday.

Hill's 75th Security Forces Squadron personnel, Utah Highway Patrol officers and other local police officers from Davis County cities participated in the sixth annual, "Shop with a Cop," at Wal-Mart Saturday in Layton.

The early morning started out at Applebee's in Layton where 68 children from state agencies were paired up with a military and local police officers to eat breakfast before convoying out to Wal-Mart.

Rachel Pearson, community involvement coordinator for Wal-Mart in Layton, said that the breakfast serves as an opportunity for the kids and the police officer to get to know each other.

"The children get to interact with a police officer," Ms. Pearson said. "Some kids are really scared because the only experiences they've had with law enforcement is negative. They haven't built a pattern of trust yet."

After a complimentary breakfast, the children and police officers convoyed in police vehicles, with lights and sirens blaring, to Wal-Mart where they waited for a very special guest, Santa Claus. Santa flew in by helicopter and greeted the children and escorted them into the giant super store.

Once inside the store, each child was given a $100 gift card to spend on anything they wanted.

Some had a list of what they wanted and others didn't know what they wanted to get.

Ten-year old Austin knew exactly what he wanted to get for his parents.

"He got car accessories for his dad," said Senior Airman Michael Tanner, a 75th SFS patrolman who shopped with 10-year-old Austin. "I thought that was thoughtful of him. He didn't get much for himself but he thought of his family."

Seth, an indecisive 9-year-old, didn't have a game plan before shopping.

"Seth already had a gift picked out for his mom, a ceramic castle," said Staff Sgt. Isaac Jones, a Hill cop who spent the morning having breakfast and shopping with Seth. "He wasn't sure what he wanted to get for himself, but it wasn't hard once we got to the toy section."

"I love to see the look on these kids' faces when we take them shopping," Airman Tanner said. "That's the only reason why I do this every year."

Staff Sgt. Justin Forsgren, 75th SFS spokesman, said that most of the 75th SFS personnel were off-duty, but decided to come and volunteer.

"I've been involved with "Shop with a Cop" since I came to Hill three years ago," Sergeant Forsgren said. "There is definitely a sense of fulfillment when you make a kid's day. Only a couple hours with a child can brighten their outlook on life and I feel privileged to be a part of that."

Ms. Pearson said that she is grateful for Hill's involvement with the event.

"The military is a huge part of the community," she said. "I think it's important for the kids to see what the cops do and how they contribute to the community."

The 75th SFS will volunteer again Saturday to shop with children from Weber County.