The Canadian Tire in Prince Albert was a popular spot on Wednesday thanks to the return of the Prince Albert Police Services annual Shop With a Cop event.
Sergeant in charge of Community Services Derek Simonson said the event helps the police connect to the community and bring some Christmas spirit.
“The Shop with a Cop program has been around for a few decades across Canada and North America, and in our city, it’s been here since 2008,” Simonson said.
“It’s such an amazing program. We connect with kids in our community that maybe don’t have the opportunity to shop for their family, and we pair them up with a police officer.”
The Optimist Club of Prince Albert contributed $1,500 to help fund the program. Schools from the Prince Albert Catholic and Saskatchewan Rivers School Divisions were able to participate in the event, which was organized by the Community Services section of the police service.
“(There’s) amazing joy that it brings to all of the kids’ faces,” Simonson said. “They have presents now to wrap and put under the tree for their family and that’s priceless.”
The event provided $100 per youth to spend on Christmas gifts for their families. Every child was assigned an officer or staff member to help.
“We try to get close to that number and there have been times where the police officer may have not budgeted properly and in going over then we helped cover the rest, so it’s a great day and super exciting,” Simonson said.
The five schools taking part included King George, Vincent Massey, St. Catherine’s, St. Michael’s and Princess Margaret School.
“We are representing both Prince Albert Catholic and the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division. We always try to ensure that we include both divisions,” Simonson said.
Members for most parts of the division participated in Wednesday’s event. Staff members like PAPS Elder Liz Settee and Chaplain Nora Vedress also took part.
“This is a community affair. We have our chaplain for our Police Service along with our elder and some of our other staff or CSO’s or civilian staff to help out,” Simonson said. “It’s really a combination of everybody that we have working at the Police Service.”
Shop with Cap was held later than usual this year, however Simonson said it worked to their advantage.
“We just had a really busy year and the school year ended up a little bit later, so it allowed us to put it into this week, which we thought was nice,” Simonson said. “It’s a little bit closer to Christmas.”
Vedress and Grade 4 Vincent Massey student Michaela both enjoyed spending the morning shopping.
Michaela said her favourite part of shopping with Vedress was spending time with her.
She was able to find gifts for her father and grandmother.
“It’s a new one it’s called Soggy Doggy,” Michaela said.
She also bought chocolates for her brother and found something special.
“A Squishmallow, it was a high five moment,” Vedress said.
“We have had lots of high five moments,” she added.
They also found a candy cane for Michaela.
“She’s never had them before and it’s not Christmas without a candy cane,” Vedress said.
Vedress said Michaela did a great job.
“She’s a fantastic shopper. But, we have 10 more dollars to spend, so we’re gonna go back to the.
toys and see if we can find 10 more bucks,” Vedress said.
Simonson said the positive interactions between students, and PAPS officers and staff are great for the whole community.
“Those positive interactions that we have with our Community are so important. (It) creates those relationships with our youth and their families,” Simonson said.
Prince Albert Northern Buslines covered the cost of the bus for the day, which began at McDonald’s.
McDonalds on Second Avenue covered the cost of meals for all 25 students, who were allowed to order whatever they wanted.
There was also an appearance by one of the PAPS service dogs, Blue, and their handler.
The Prince Albert Police Service said they appreciate the support and effort from their local community partners in helping to make the holiday season a little brighter for local children and their families.