Christmas comes early for ‘Cops and Kids’December 5, 2018
By CANDY NEAL
JASPER — A crowd of uniformed law enforcement officers stood near Walmart’s front entry this morning, chatting with colleagues and family members and holding papers that listed a child’s name and list of items.
A little after 10 a.m., SUVs brought those 3- and 4-year-olds to the store. Each officer went out to meet their young partner.
For the next hour, the officer and child worked together to get the items on the list, items that the child needed and those that they wanted for Christmas.
This mass shopping trip, called Cops and Kids, has been around for more than 15 years, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Wood Capitol Lodge 138. Various donors in the community — businesses, organizations and individuals — contribute money to pay for $150 in gifts the officers and children pick out. The majority of the money goes to things the children need, but some is spent on wants, like toys. Walmart and Maurice’s are big donors, but the smaller donations, such as the checks people in the community send to the Fraternal Order of Police, are appreciated as well, said Jasper Police Department Sgt. Adam Bower, organizer of the event.
“A lot of these kids may not necessarily have a Christmas if we couldn’t help provide one for them,” Bower said. “We get to give them some things they may not otherwise have.”
This year, 51 kids shopped with about 60 officers. Most of the children come from Tri-Cap’s Head Start program, though some come through assistance requests their families made directly to the FOP.
Because of insurance restrictions, the preschoolers could not be transported to Walmart by school buses as they had been in the past. Ruxer Ford stepped in and provided transportation that could accommodate the car seats the children are required to be in. So this morning, multiple SUVs lined the front of Walmart with anxious and excited children, waiting to be paired.
The officers come from law agencies throughout the county: Jasper, Huntingburg and Ferdinand police; Dubois County Sheriff’s Department; Indiana State Police; Department of Natural Resources; community corrections; probation; and the county prosecutor’s office.
Dubois County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Hanselman has been participating in the event since he started with the department in 2003.
“I love doing this for the kids,” he said. “I love seeing their smiles, reactions they have when we’re shopping and they see all the toys, all the stuff they’re getting.”
He’s gotten quiet kids that he had to talk to a lot to get them to open up. And he’s had active kids that he’s had to maintain some.
“I remember the first year I did it, I had a little boy.” Hanselman said. “When we were done shopping, we went over to the play area (in front of the store). He kept crawling underneath the games and machines. I had to go underneath to get him. He was a handful.”
Today, Hanselman and his wife, Staci, shopped with a 4-year-old girl. He said that shopping with girls is a little easier than boys.
“They’re more laid back. They really don’t care what you get them,” he said. “The boys are more direct, saying I need this or want that, especially when it comes to the toys. The girls are easier to shop with.
“But they are all fun,” he added. “And I will do this every year that I can.”
Once they all finished shopping, the children, officers and supporters headed over to the Jasper Moose Lodge for lunch that the Moose provided.
Bower said that having law enforcement officers and staff help out in this way each year shows their dedication to the community
“It’s a positive light for law enforcement,” Bower said. “In this day and age, we don’t necessarily get the best recognition.”
But in Dubois County, the relationship between the community and law enforcement is strong and positive.
“In this area, we are pretty fortunate,” Bower said. “We have a pretty good rapport with everybody.”
More photos from the event are below.
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