SIDNEY — There was a family affair going on at the Sidney Walmart Sunday morning.
The family of law enforcement officers assisted Shelby County children during the 20th annual Shop With a Cop. Each child was given $150 to spend to help make their Christmas a special one.
“We had 76 children participating this year,” said Vic R. Elliott, one of the organizers of the event sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Elliott is FOP vice president. His co-chair is Deputy Bill Booth.
“We have been 40 to 50 officers helping the children with their shopping,” said Elliott.
Law enforcement officers from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Sidney Police Department, Ohio Highway Patrol and each of the village police departments assist with the program each year, said Elliott.
Each child spends $125 on clothes and $25 on toys, said Elliott.
“This is our way of giving back to the community,” said Walmart Manager Keith Cantrell. “We also donated $3,000 to the event to help them out.”
Cantrell said Walmart is happy to provide the space for the Shop With the Cop program. Each year Walmart receives information on what each child is going to be purchasing.
“We made sure we have extra toys ordered,” said Cantrell. “We also have lots of hats, mittens and gloves for them to buy. We want to make sure we have extra of what the kids are expected to buy.”
Cantrell said four Walmart employees were available to help the shoppers if they were looking for a specific item or a certain size clothes item.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Cantrell about assisting with the event. “I get choked up sometimes when I see them shopping. It also gives you a greater appreciation for what you have.
“We’d also like to express our appreciation for what law enforcement does in the community,” said Cantrell. “They are giving families in need a good Christmas.”
Elliott said the Shop With a Cop committee contracts all the schools in the county and their guidance counselors and ask for names of children who need help for the holiday season. There are income guidelines the family must meet in order to participate in the program.
“It’s fun to see the kids get excited to come out here and shop,” said Elliott.
Two of this year’s shoppers were brothers Jayden Graham, 6, and Nathan Graham, 9. They were shopping with their mom, Chelsea Graham, of Sidney. Assisting them was Sidney Police Chief Will Balling.
“Things are going really good,” said Balling. “We’ve been through the clothing section and we’re now heading to the toy section.”
This is the first year the two boys have participated in the program.
“I believe this is a nice program,” said Chelsea Graham. “The school signed us up for it. I was really excited for the kids.
“Each one of them also picked out something for their brother and sister at home, who are 3 and 1,” she said.
Graham said she explained to her sons how the program worked and what they could purchase. They each picked out boots and coats, along with other clothes for the winter season.
The FOP raises funds for the program by calling the citizens of the county for donations. Businesses in the county — such as Advanced Composites, which donated $1,6500 — also provide funding for the event.
After their purchases have been made, each child visited with Santa Claus and received a bag of candy and an orange.
“I’d like to thank the people who donated to the program. Without them the program wouldn’t exist,” said Elliott. “Without them there wouldn’t be a program.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.