“(It’s) Awesome because we get to spend $100 and buy stuff for our family.” – Corbin, grade three student at Riverside Community School
Twenty-five Prince Albert children were paired with police officers on Thursday to shop for their families.
The annual Shop with a Cop initiative aims to give in-need students from five different schools an unforgettable holiday shopping experience while building positive relationships with local police.
A $2500 donation from Crime Stoppers gives each child $100 to shop for their families at Canadian Tire—which may need to restock its gumball machines. That was the popular gift the kids chose for themselves thanks to a donation from the High Noon Optimist Club.
Kehew, a grade fiver at W.J. Berezowsky School, was one of the many kids with a gumball machine in his cart. He was paired with Cst. Harlovepreet Gahrha, who took part in the Shop with a Cop for the first time.
“This is for all four of us: me and my two brothers and sister,” said Kehew, pointing to the game Jenga. He got his sister a second gift, a stuffed wiener dog, and Christmas-printed socks for his grandparents.
“It gives them great joy because they are doing something for their family,” said Gahrha. “I’m not familiar with their situation, but if we didn’t do (this) today, they probably won’t be able to buy these gifts for their family members.”
“Initially he was pretty quiet, so many cops around, but now he’s opened up and look at him—he’s just going at it,” he said about Kehew, who was pulling toys off of shelves and putting them into his cart.
Cst. Foster Cote was shopping with Corbin, a grade three student at Riverside Community School. He had two giant stuffed unicorns in his cart, which he said were for his “baby sister.”
When asked what it was like to hang out with a cop for the day, Corbin said “Awesome because we get to spend $100 and buy stuff for our family.”
“My baby sister’s two, my brother is 12…my mom is an adult and I am a kid with a toy,” he added. Cote laughed.
Corbin said he wants to be a cop when he grows up, which was heartwarming for Cote to hear.
“It brings me back to when I was about his age and having a role model to look up to,” said Cote.
“Guys like Corbin here, usually they don’t get lots of gifts like this so it’s nice to come out and actually represent the police service and give these kids something to look forward to as far as a career path maybe in the future.”
Cst. Brett Friesen was paired with Rhylee, who also picked out a gumball machine for herself. She hadn’t picked out anything yet for her family, and said she wasn’t shopping for anything in particular.
“I think it’s a great event. It gets us to interact with some of the kids in the community and definitely made a new friend,” emphasized Friesen, who’s a new recruit with the Prince Albert Police Service.
“The better relationship we can make with the younger generation, the better our future’s going to look.”
Sgt. Travis Willie has been organizing Shop with a Cop for four years.
“I remember going back to the very first one and how it’s kind of come along and how many more partners we have,” he said.
He thanked Crime Stoppers, the High Noon Optimist Club, Prince Albert Northern buslines, Canadian Tire and Old Dutch for their contributions, as well as McDonalds, where the group went for lunch and dessert before shopping.
“We’re in uniform, but they get to know us as people,” said Willie about the importance of the initiative. “At the end of the day these kids are given their police partners a hug when we take them back to their schools.”
“The officers who take part I always find have bigger smiles on their faces than the kids.”