Kokomo Police Department officers and Howard County Sheriff Department deputies often see a lot of need in the community that others don’t see. On Dec. 11, those law enforcement officers, along with Kokomo High School cheerleaders, spread some Christmas cheer to many children in need as part of this year’s Shop with a Cop.
“This is good for kids to be able to see us in a different light,” said officer Jason Burton, president of Fraternal Order of Police Local No. 78 David Foster Lodge. “Unfortunately, these kids, when they see us out in the street it is not a good setting. A lot of the times when the kids deal with us, it’s over domestic situations.”
The day began at the David Foster Lodge, where the children and their parents arrived early in the morning for a free breakfast where everyone had the choice of either a doughnut or biscuits and gravy. On top of that, Santa Claus made a stop to greet the children.
In all, 110 children ranging in age from 1 month to 17 years benefited from the program that was made possible due to donations from individuals and local businesses.
In choosing the students, the names were cross-referenced with Goodfellows and other social service agencies as well as some were chosen by Kokomo-Center Township Schools Corp.’s staff and police officers.
From the FOP, the parents had a choice to either go to Meijer or to Kohl’s for their day of shopping with a cop. The younger kids generally went to Meijer and the older kids generally went to Kohl’s. Those on their way to the stores were taken via a Spirit of Kokomo bus to their destination and later returned to the FOP after their shopping was complete.
When the shoppers arrived to either Meijer or Kohl’s, they were greeted with a cop and a Kokomo High School cheerleader. The cop and the cheerleader went along with the shopper and served as an added helper in choosing what to buy. The cops and cheerleaders met anywhere between two to four different groups of people on each trip through the store. On one trip inside the Meijer store, they may have only gone to the toys’ department and on another they may have went to shop for clothing. And, on the next they may have seen the latest in movies. Each trip was unique and it was all worth it to everyone involved.
“The interaction we have with the kids is just priceless,” said KPD patrolman Kevin Summers, who was also the 2010 chairman of Shop with a Cop. “When they come up and thank you for making their Christmas a little happier and seeing Santa at the FOP, it just brings a lot of joy to the kids and the officers. They just thoroughly enjoy this time of year and, as you can see, we had great participation from the community. It’s just a great community event and it’s great to give back to the community.”
The 13 cheerleaders, like the cops, enjoyed their time meeting new people.
“It’s inspiring for us to come out here and help other families and when we’re done here we are going to help out a girl from our school that is in need, too,” sophomore Shelby Tickfer said. “We are just trying to get into the Christmas spirit because we are fortunate. We just want to give back to everyone else.”
The way the cheerleaders are helping their classmate is by donating all of the $10 gift cards that Meijer gave them to use for gifts that the student needs, cheerleading coach Kelly Karickhoff said.
“We are all about helping out everyone,” senior Audri Jones said. “When you see a cheerleader, you want them to be role models and help everyone out and little kids look up to you. You want them to see what kind of leader you are.”
Burton said the day wouldn’t have been possible without all of the generous donations.
“Throughout the year, we take in donations,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the citizens and a lot of the businesses in town giving the donations they do, we probably wouldn’t be able to make this happen. Because of that, even with the trying times we have with the economy right now, we’ve been able to actually get more kids in here and help more families here. I’m real pleased with the outcome we’ve had this year.”