The Highland Walmart was full of smiling faces, carts stacked with holiday presents and police officers Saturday.
The annual Highland Police Department program, Christmas with a Cop, was Dec. 16. During the event, officers shopped with children from families who need some support during the holiday season. Starting at 8 a.m., numerous officers from Highland and Grantfork paired with a child, were given a wish list, and then set loose on the aisles of the department store.
“The event is always fun, and everyone leaves with a wonderful experience, both families and officers,” said Highland Police Chief Terry Bell.
In preparation for the event, the police department partnered with the Highland School District, the Highland Area Community Service Ministry, and local churches to find participating families who might need a little more support this holiday season. In total, the departments shopped for 31 family members with about $100 to be spent on each family member, according to Bell.
Bell said many contributors donated to the cause, including Walmart, the Madison County Tavern Owners Association, the Highland Moose, Highland Family Video, the Highland Fraternal Order of Police, Equity 55, Sanders Waste Systems, and employees from both the Highland and Grantfork police departments.
“We’re excited to be here and just grateful with all the benevolence with everybody in the community,” Bell said.
For some of the children, this was their first time ever meeting a cop. But whatever apprehension might have been present before faded away as the kids walked down the aisles, side by side the officers.
During the shopping experience, something special happens with these kids that Bell said touches his heart every year.
“I think my favorite thing about this is just the attitude of the kids that we shop with. You know, they are so selfless,” Bell said. “We usually have to urge them to shop for themselves before we’re done.”
Caden, 11, was one of those children.
His mother, Amber, said the family participated with the program for several reasons, including her current battle with colon cancer. As they shopped, Amber spoke of how kind each of her children were and wanted to thank the community for working to give them something special.
“Without this, they would not have a Christmas,” she said.
However, as Caden as walked through the store, his mind was on his mother. Along with a set of Christian CDs, he bought her a special cross necklace.
“It was good, because there were some things I might not have gotten today that I did get and that I was really hoping for. It made my whole entire day,” Caden said.
And at the end, Caden wanted the policeman he shopped with to know just how grateful he was.
“Thank you,” he said. “That was the best time. Thank you.”