Due to the holidays, I’m a few days behind on stories, but good news is good news, even when it’s a little late, so here goes….
Harley Caldwell knew where she wanted to be among the Wal-Mart aisles on Saturday morning.
The dolls were her thing as she picked out some of her Christmas gifts. Tailed by her grandfather, Harley, a 9-year-old from Wanship, wanted a Little Mommy doll as one of her gifts.
A Park City reserve police officer, Nicole Baldwin, was also with Harley on Saturday morning, watching as the girl selected the gifts as part of the Shop With a Cop program put on by the local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Baldwin was one of the approximately 90 underprivileged kids who took part in the gift-giving program that teamed the kids with law enforcement officers from at least 10 local, state and federal agencies.
“No Santa. No nothing. Right to the dolls,” Baldwin said of Harley’s route once inside Wal-Mart.
The Shop With a Cop program is popular with both the kids and the officers, who say it is nice to have a chance to spend a little time with young people outside a law enforcement setting.
The officers and the kids ate breakfast at The Yarrow and then drove in a motorcade to Wal-Mart, emergency lights on and sirens blaring. Santa Claus arrived in the Wal-Mart parking lot aboard a medical helicopter, landing in a spot surrounded by the police vehicles. The kids and the officers who were with them fanned out across the store, with the toy aisles being a popular destination on Saturday.
Richard Stremke, Harley’s grandfather, said the child will receive some school clothes
and a few toys from her family on Christmas as well. She was excited as Saturday approached, he said, describing that she “talked about it for the last two days.”
“I’m sure it made a big difference. We’re not going to be able to give her much of a Christmas,” Stremke said, adding that Saturday seemed like Christmas morning because Harley was so excited.
Each of the kids received a $100 allowance on Saturday morning to spend on gifts. Many officers covered the difference with their own money if the kids went over the $100 limit.
Bob Lucking, a Park City police sergeant and the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said many of the officers had just worked overnight shifts but wanted to take part anyway.
“Nobody’s ordered to be here. They sign up for this,” Lucking said.
Churches, schools and advocates working with crime victims provided the organizers a list of names of children who would benefit from the program. Lucking said he had anticipated 60 kids taking part, but late-hour fundraising was successful and more kids were invited to Shop With a Cop.
Lucking said the organizers by Saturday had also raised half the money needed for the 2010 edition.
“This is the best day of the year for me,” Lucking said. “To see the smiles on the faces.”
By Jay Hamburger