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Kids get Christmas wishes filled - shopping with cops

Dale Olson from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office helped Courtney (left) shop at Wal-Mart Thursday during the annual "Shop?With a Cop" program.1 / 2
Tammy Wassather, a Wal-Mart employee, handed Ben his bag after he took part in this year's "Shop With a Cop" program.2 / 2

If you shopped at Wal-Mart Thursday afternoon, you may have thought something bad was going down.

There were squad cars in the parking lot and several law enforcement officers walking around the store.

However, there were no crimes being committed.

The officers were taking part in the annual "Shop With a Cop" program that offers kids an opportunity to shop with law enforcement officers - jailors, communications personnel, police officers and sheriff's deputies.

Shop With a Cop, according to Jackie Notch, Douglas County Jail administrator and organizer of the program, has been in the Douglas County area for at least six years.

Each year, Notch contacts school social workers in Douglas County for names of students who may be having a bad year; maybe there was a death in the family or maybe a student's parents got divorced.

Then, she contacts the families to find out if the students can participate, explaining to them that each child will receive a gift card that they can use for whatever they want - presents for their siblings, their parents or themselves. They are not told what the money needs to be used for.

And she tells them the student will be shopping with a law enforcement member.

Notch said it's a good way for kids to get to know law enforcement and to realize that they are not as bad as they are sometimes perceived.

This year, 26 kids coming from 10 different families took part in the program.

"They each got $50 and a cop to shop with," said Notch.

Funds for this year's Shop With a Cop came from Bernick's Pepsi, Wal-Mart and Douglas Machine.

This was the first year, Notch said, that Douglas Machine was involved with the program. During last year's program an employee from Douglas Machine, Monte Mounsdon, was in the store when the kids and cops were shopping and because he knew Notch, asked what was going on.

"After I told him, he handed me $20 on the spot," she said.

Then, he went back to work and started planning for this year's program.

Mounsdon, who was at this year's Shop With a Cop event, said that a fundraiser was held this summer and the employees of Douglas Machine donated money to the Shop With a Cop program. Douglas Machine matched the amount raised by employees and a total of $2,115 was donated to the program.

What the kids

had to say

One of the families involved in this year's program had tragedy strike last November when the five children lost their dad in a car accident.

The children - ages 14, 13, 9, 7 and 4 - and their mother, Laura, had a great time shopping with the officers.

Julie, 9, shopped with Barb Saurdiff from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

"She helped me pick out a lot of stuff and I had a lot of fun. I want to do it again," said Julie.

Her brother, Sam, 7, said he bought air hogs and model cars. Sam, who shopped with Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, said the sheriff was fun to shop with and that, "He was nice."

As she pointed out all her purchases, Sally, 4, said, "I got this and I got that and oh, I got Tinker Bell."

Their brother, Ben, 14, who bought posters, school supplies and "some other stuff," said it was interesting shopping with a cop.

"It was cool and awesome," he added.

Their mother, Laura, said her kids were looking forward to shopping and that she thought it was a good opportunity for them to see that officers aren't mean.

"I don't think they were intimidated or scared of the officers," said Laura.

Another young shopper, Courtney, bought something for herself, but also made sure she bought a present for each of her two brothers and something for her mom.

"My mom has cancer and so I bought her this angel because she likes angels," Courtney said.

And in the very next breath, she added that she also bought some Febreze air freshener.

"I bought this," she said pointing to the Febreze, "because the bathroom gets stinky after my brothers are in it and after my cat goes to the bathroom."

Courtney also pointed out that she bought some Gatorade because "we were all out of it at home."

What the

officers said

Brad Lake, chief deputy of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, has been involved with the program for a number of years.

"In my opinion, having the opportunity to help out by taking these kids shopping truly kicks off the spirit of the holiday season," said Lake.

He added, "On behalf of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, I want to thank Jackie Notch, who organizes things on our end, and to the local businesses that contribute to make this program a yearly success."

Deputy Brandon Chaffins said, "One of the neatest things for me is that for the past several years, the kids who I have shopped with have thought of others first and have bought gifts for family members."

Another member of the sheriff's office, Brad Brejcha, who has participated for several years, said, "I enjoy it more each time. I am impressed with how many want to buy things for their families and not just for themselves."

Brejcha said the 9-year-old girl he shopped with had lots of energy and ran him all over the store, but it was worth it when she proudly showed her grandmother everything she picked out.

Deputy Ron Boyden said, "After all of the shopping and trying to figure out how to spend the money with Hayden, the smile on his face when walking away from the register with his gifts was cool. It really makes the event special to be able to get these kids some gifts that they want, but wouldn't normally be able to get."

Barb Saurdiff, who shopped with 9-year-old Julie, said, "The little girl I had made me feel good inside and I now know everything there is to know about stuffed animals!"

Saurdiff told Jackie Notch that the best day of last week was the day she went shopping with the kids.

Notch noted that she never has a problem finding enough "cops" to sign up for the program.

"After dealing with what we deal with on a daily basis with our jobs," she said, "going shopping with these kids makes us all feel like life is truly good."