MIAMI – It was hard to tell who was enjoying the "Shop With A Cop" event Monday morning more, or who was receiving gifts, the children and teenagers or the law enforcement officers.
Thirty-one Quapaw school children were treated to a shopping spree at the Miami Walmart courtesy of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma each accompanied by a law enforcement officer.
First the children met the officer who would be shopping with them at the store for breakfast. The 20 officers shopping with children were with the Quapaw Tribal Marshal Service, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Quapaw Police Department and Miami Tribal Police.
“This is our second year doing this,” said John Millard, Quapaw Tribal Deputy Marshal and School Resource officer at Quapaw Schools. “I get with the school a couple of months in advance and they give me names and stuff and then we go from there.We took them all to breakfast first. Quapaw Casino catered out to the Tribe's Title VI building and then we came shopping.”
Each child or teenager received $200 to spend as they wished on Christmas gifts while personally attended to by a law enforcement officer.
Millard said he started the program at Quapaw Schools as SRO officer.
“ I did it at the previous department I was involved in and when I started here I thought, 'Hey, that would be a good idea,'” he said. “I work with kids there at the school every day and it's nice to help be able to help make sure they have gifts, because not everybody has the best money situation this time of year. So, it's nice to be able to help people and kind of make their day bright because it might have not otherwise been.”
Wish lists in hand the officers were helping the children find their special Christmas toys and presents, everything from dolls, electronics, Legos, clothes, Barbies and Star Wars action figures and more were being loaded into shopping baskets.
Millard said most of the children wanted to use some of their money to buy gifts for their family members or to get clothes.
“Look at my new bike,” one young boy said as he whizzed by on a brand new bicycle with a grin from ear to ear on his face, “It's so great!”
A little blond curly haired girl looked up at an officer helping her and shouted “Oh boy!” jumping up and down with excitement over a Frozen princess dress.
A teenager picked out some new clothes and asked the officer to help her choose which color hoodie to get.
“After we shop with them we're going to wrap their presents and take them home,”Millard said as he shopped with three small children. “It's been a fun day so far.”
The day was joyful and meaningful for all involved with the children receiving heaps of Christmas gifts and the officers receiving the gift of smiles, laughter and hugs.
“The only time they see us is when it's bad and it's nice to have the positive interaction between law enforcement and the kids,” Millard said.