Annual event hosted by GPOA brings out the best in children and officers.
By Charly SHELTON
Christmas is almost here and, for many in the area, times are tough. Decent winter clothes and new shoes are not a realistic possibility let alone Christmas presents. Responding to this need is the Glendale Police Officers Association.
The Association supports the community in many ways including through one of its programs that is focused specifically on children in need called Cops for Kids. Through Cops for Kids, an annual event – Shop with a Cop – provides the chance for kids to participate in a night of shopping. This year’s event was held Tuesday night at the Glendale Galleria Target.
“We team up with Target and this year we had $6,000 we were given. So we had 30 kids who received $200 each – 30 kids with 30 officers,” said Police Service Officer Amy Tate. “And, literally, they go around the store and pick what they want. If you’re walking around [the store, you’ll see] kids are buying socks and shoes, jackets, pajamas; we even had one little boy who had a little pink pajama set in his cart. I teased him that it wouldn’t fit him and he said, ‘No, I’m donating it because they’re collecting clothes at my school.’”
Shop with a Cop is aimed at kids even more than another program Cops for Kids handles, which adopts a whole family at Christmas. Shop with a Cop is a more personal time when officers interact with kids on a one-on-one basis. They get to take them shopping before heading back to the station for a big dinner. And while the shopping spree is supposed to be all about the kids, often the kids want to buy things for others – like the little boy who bought clothes to donate, or another boy who asked for help picking out makeup for his sister.
“It’s supposed to be for themselves but we found over the years that they want to buy for the whole family,” Tate said. “That’s so sweet and, even though we’re making it about them, they’re not making it about them.”
Target sponsors the event for police departments and organizations nationwide that apply to take part. The funds, in the form of gift cards, are usually donated by Target and matched when needed by the police. Then children and teenagers are chosen from local schools, nominated by their teachers and administrators, and paired with a cop who is donating his or her time to be at the event. The result is a shopping spree with the added benefit of getting to know on a personal level some of Glendale’s finest.
“I tried to pair the officer with the child – like if I knew the child’s history a little bit, I tried to pair accordingly,” Tate said. “A lot of times these kids don’t have a good outlook on law enforcement [officers]. Maybe we gave their parent a ticket or maybe we arrested their father, or maybe we knocked on their door in the middle of the night and scared them or something like that. So they don’t always have a positive outlook [on police]. [This event] shows them that [officers] are real people – real dads and moms – and they shop just like their own parents. It’s really touching to see that.”
This leaves an impression, Tate said, on the kids who get to take part.
“It’s just a great experience for a child. They’ll never forget it,” Tate said. “I know if I was 10 and had $200 to spend on myself, that would be awesome.”