On Dec. 12, students, police, and community members gathered for an annual shopping spree at the Oro Valley Target as part of the Shop-With-A-Cop program. The 18 students selected to Shop-With-A-Cop spent an afternoon stocking up on clothes, toys, and Christmas presents, courtesy of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #53.
Students were chosen based on need two weeks earlier by their school counselors and nurses.
Sgt. Carmen Trevizo has participated in the event for the last five years.
“I think it gets people to interact with police officers in a positive way that maybe they normally otherwise wouldn’t get to do,” she said. “And I think it really helps to build trust between law enforcement and kids and administrators in the schools. And of course it’s nice to be able to help someone out at Christmas time.”
The Oro Valley Police have hosted Shop-With-A-Cop for more than 13 years, since it absorbed Adopt-A-Family to allow for more resources. Town employees helped support the event through fundraisers.
According to Kevin Mattocks, President of the FOP Lodge #53, the program has been expanding every year. This year, each of the two students from the nine Oro Valley public schools received $150 to spend at Target.
For some families, the support means a lot.
Michelle Taylor, who was there with her son Mason, recently fell on difficult times when both she and her husband lost their jobs. Taylor felt “honored” to be nominated by her son’s teacher and chosen for the program. Mason hadn’t stopped talking about it for weeks.
“He is just over the moon excited,” she said.
Other families had fallen on even harder times. Branden and Grace Pippins attended with their grandmother, Phyllis Geris, because their mother had recently died.
“I never expected such generosity out of this. It’s just so special. It’s been a tough year for them with losing their mom, it’s been really, really hard,” said Geris. “I was shocked to hear they were going to do this, and even more surprised about how generous they are. I liked just seeing the kids having fun today and enjoying themselves.”
Branden was excited about the event and his new football, pogo stick, and Wii games that were piling up in his cart.
“It’s good—I can get new toys and stuff like that,” he said.
Volunteers were divided over their favorite parts of the time they spend with the students.
For Greg Caton, town manager, and officer Ed Holdinsky it’s the reactions of the kids.
“It’s the looks on the kids’ faces,” said Caton. “A lot of times they’ll say ‘can I use the money to buy something for someone else, and it just reminds us about the season of giving.”
Sgt. Bruce Thomas, treasurer of FOP Lodge #53, is always impressed with the kids’ selflessness. He spent his time with Paul Ho, 9, on the hunt for the perfect Lego sets and a Nerf ball.
“Paul has a sister who bought things for the whole family. To me, a kid that thinks of all their other siblings and mom and dad, that’s pretty amazing to me,” said Thomas. “They’re that open-hearted to think about other people.”
Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp spent the afternoon shopping with Brianna Ragels.
Brianna had not heard of the program before this year, but was grateful to be a part of it.
“This gives me a chance to get things for my family and get a bunch of Christmas things for us,” Ragels said. “I like the whole idea behind it.”
Sharp agrees that it’s not just the kids who benefit from the event.
“The cops get more out of this than the kids. There’s no question. This is one of my favorite events,” he said.
Other officers and volunteers agreed that most students end up spending money and time on gifts for others.
Several Oro Valley council members attended the event to watch the children happily shop, including Mayor Satish Hiremath and councilwoman Mary Snider.
It is an event that reminds everyone involved of the sprit of the holidays. Snider said she is always impressed with how much the volunteers can take away from the event.
“You don’t often get to touch individual families and children in the community and feel like you’re doing something that makes their life happier and better,” said Snider. “It demonstrates the care and the heart of this community.”