WALLA WALLA — Local cops walked the beat of Walmart’s aisles Saturday on a mission to give toys to those who might have had to do without this Christmas.
“We don’t want any child in our community to wake up and know it is Christmas and not have anything for them under the Christmas tree,” Cops And Kids coordinator and sheriff’s Deputy Cristal Harris said.
This year, Cops And Kids (formerly Shop with a Cop) provided gifts for about 56 children from 21 families that are struggling this Christmas.
As in years past, the families were picked through the recommendations from local professionals whose jobs bring them in contact with families in need.
Those professionals include school counselors, social workers and law enforcement officers.
“I actually have a case on one guy who is coming here today; I still have to do my work,” Harris said.
Other families are picked for the program on recommendation from previous participants, which is how Ralyn Clodius was chosen — a friend who took part in 2011 suggested Clodius for this year.
“Hopefully we won’t be in this position next year, and I can be the one keeping it going,” Clodius said.
Cops And Kids works by allowing one child in the family to buy gifts at Walmart for all members of his or her immediate family.
That includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and pretty much anyone living in their household, Harris explained.
The local program costs about $2,000 to $3,000 each year to run and, since 1999, has been run by Blue Mountain Lodge No. 9 of the Fraternal Order of Police.
For the Clodius family, Owen, 7, was the child who got to pick out gifts.
“I didn’t tell him ahead of time. You know what would happen. ‘Is it today? Is it today?’ So I told him this morning. And he was so excited,” Clodius said.
For some families it was their second Cops And Kids, which worked out great for Amaya, 7, because last year she was upset her brother, Andrew, got to pick the gifts.
“This year they are quite excited and happy about it. Last year they didn’t understand it,” Carol-Lyn McAlvey, Amaya’s grandmother, said.
For approximately two hours, law enforcement from Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office, Walla Walla Police Department, College Place Police Department, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and Washington Sate Department of Fish and Wildlife took turns leading kids around Walmart as their sponsored kids picked out gifts.
While completing their mission, the officers were tasked with ferreting out what the child wanted for his or her gift.
Then, as the child watched the gifts getting wrapped by a barrage of wrapping-table volunteers, an officer would sneak away and retrieve the one gift the child wanted.
That gift was then wrapped and put with the others, though no amount of wrapping paper was able to conceal at least one bicycle that was carried away.
Cops And Kids wrapped up with a visit and family photo with Santa. Then the gifts were grocery-carted away and taken home for Christmas.
People interested in donating to Cops And Kids should contact their local law enforcement agency.