A 6-year-old girl shrieking with delight after finding a toy she saw on a commercial would've warmed even the Grinch's heart.
On Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 children — including the 6-year-old — were able to shop alongside law enforcement officers for Christmas presents they might not otherwise receive at Walmart, 1800 Lawrence St., as part of the annual Shop with a Cop program.
The program provides an opportunity for children who might've been involved in a traumatic event that left a negative imprint of law enforcement to see them in a different light, event organizers said.
The children are picked by case managers, said Child Advocacy Center of Cooke County Program Manager Lindsey Sanders.
The CAC is an arm of Abigail’s Arms Cooke County Family Crisis Center.
Each child was given a budget of $150 to shop. The money came from the Gainesville Rotary Club and the Gainesville Police Department. And, when the child's guardian came to pick them up, they were handed a $50 gift card, Sanders said.
The event was a bit different than years' past. To help slow the spread of the pandemic coronavirus, precautions were taken to have a quick grab and go-style breakfast in the open air of Walmart's garden center before the children began shopping. Breakfast was provided by the Rotary club. Typically, breakfast is prepared at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1922 on Grand Avenue. Children then hop in squad cars with their assigned law enforcement officer and head to Walmart.
Children were still able to check out police vehicles, just in Walmart's parking lot.
Gainesville Independent School District Officer Juana Rodriguez said she used to be an advocate with Abigail's Arms.
“That smile they have at the end is all worth it,” Rodriguez said of why she participates in the annual event. “ … It helps the kids. It helps them have a good year.”
She said this was her second year attending as an officer.
Law enforcement personnel with Gainesville ISD, the Gainesville Police Department, Muenster Police Department, North Central Texas College Police Department, Valley View Police Department, the Cooke County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department participated in Saturday's event, said Sanders.
Muenster Police Department Investigator Laura Brackeen said seeing the expressions on the children's faces keeps her coming back each year.
“The happiness that they show makes me happy,” Brackeen said.