Holiday program matches officers with gift-focused children
The Shop with a Cop program may never rival such holiday traditions as decorating Christmas trees and singing carols, but it has become a seasonal hallmark, according to Saukville Police Officer Emily Neese, organizer of the annual event.
For the third year, the Saukville department hosted the day when nearly two dozen needy children do their Christmas shopping in the company of area police officers.
The shopping was done at the Saukville Walmart and the Meijer store in Grafton, which covered the cost of the gifts. Oldenburg Metal Tech also helped fund the event.
A pre-shopping breakfast for the youngsters and officers was held at the Saukville police station, catered by the Prime Minister restaurant and Mila’s European Bakery.
Neese noted that this year’s event, held Dec. 18, involved police officers from Saukville, Port Washington, Grafton, Cedarburg, Mequon, Thiensville, the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Department of Natural Resources.
The event is so popular, she said, more officers volunteered for the “duty” than could be matched with children.
Neese said one of those volunteers, Grafton Officer Justin Lawrenz, contacted her to make sure he was on the list of helpers long before a date was set.
As it turned out, the child assigned to Lawrenz didn’t show up, but a State Patrol officer who was scheduled to take part in the shopping event was tied up at a crash scene. The Grafton officer readily took on the match.
“These two became immediate buddies,” Neese said.
Because of foster-care restrictions, the youngster couldn’t be photographed during the event, so Lawrenz made sure the boy was “strategically placed” in every group shot to be part of the fun without being identifiable.
In another case, Neese said Sheriff’s Deputy Rebecca Carter was assigned to a young shopper who was painfully shy.
“It took quite a while and I think some cookies to bribe him, but once he did warm up to her it was hilarious,” Neese said.
After breaking the ice, she said the deputy and boy staged “several light saber battles in the Walmart toy aisles.”
One of the more heartwarming moments for Neese came when a customer at the Meijer store handed her a $20 bill and asked that it be given to one of the children — and she was told to make sure they spent it on themselves.
She randomly picked a child who was shopping with a Mequon police officer.
“If you’ve ever handed a 7-year-old $20 and told them to spend it on anything they want, then you can imagine the look on this little girl’s face,” Neese said.
“It was a mix of awe, excitement and disbelief.”
Neese said the shopping experience is a highlight of the Christmas season for the children, but also for the participating officers.
“We are with people on bad days, sometimes the worst days of their lives,” she noted.
“We don’t get to share in the joyous moments of people’s lives. We are often the bearer of bad news. Events like Shop with a Cop allow us to change that, to bring fun and happiness — and possibly some holiday good cheer.”
Image Information: SAUKVILLE POLICE SGT. Robert Ramthun shared a pre-shopping spree breakfast with Preston Sharrock at the Saukville Police Station during Shop with a Cop on Dec. 18. Officers from eight departments took part in the holiday event. Photo by Sam Arendt