WALKER -- Police officers exchanged their patrol units for shopping carts, their ticket books for Christmas lists, their sidearms for… L.O.L. Surprise Dolls?
Well, that just depended on what the child wanted.
A dozen members of the Walker Police Association, an organization comprised of employees from the Walker Police Department, made the holiday wishes of 13 children come true during its inaugural Shop With a Cop event.
The holiday shopping spree took place on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Walmart Supercenter in Walker — mostly in the toy section — and allowed children to purchase up to $120 worth of Christmas presents with a police officer at their side.
“Whatever I want?” one young boy asked.
“Yes, whatever you want,” responded Scott Glenn, a Walker police officer who also serves as the WPA treasurer.
It was Glenn who originally pitched the idea of a shopping spree, which he said was a way to “bridge the gap” between the police force and the community it serves.
Though the WPA — which just started this year — didn’t even have the necessary funding for a shopping spree at the time, Glenn said the decision was unanimous.
“When I brought it up [to the WPA], everybody immediately jumped on board and said, ‘Let’s give back to the kids,’” Glenn recalled. “And that’s one of our goals [as an association], to give back to the community.
“This is a chance to bridge the gap between the community and police,” Glenn said later. “No matter how you look at it, there is a gap. Some people don’t like the police, some people love the police, but we’re trying to show the people we are not bad and we want to give back.”
In addition to Walmart allowing the spree to take place inside its store, four local businesses also helped make this a Christmas to remember for several families in the Walker area.
Glenn singled out the owners of S&S Tire and Automotive, Wildcat Auto Sales, and Tranz Tech for contributing funds to the event while also thanking the owner of Sombreros Mexican Restaurant for donating free meal passes to each child. Each pass is enough to feed up to five people, said Sombreros owner Tommy Stojak, and none were given expiration dates.
Additionally, Glenn said three “regular citizens” contributed an extra $320, giving the WPA roughly $1,600 to divide among the children.
When it came to finding which children “to bless,” Glenn said he and others sought insight from the faculties at Walker and South Walker elementary schools, because, “Who better than the people who see the kids everyday to know which ones really need it?”
After the WPA compiled a list of names, all were thrown in a box for a drawing, which eventually culminated in Wednesday’s shopping spree through Walmart.
With an officer at their side pushing a cart, children rushed to the store’s toy section in search of what they wanted most. A few boys quickly went for the action figures and race cars, while some of the girls sought dolls, doll houses and other accessories.
At one point, Walker police officer Brant Villenurve playfully pointed a lightsaber at fellow officer Kris Tamplet and his shopping buddy. On the next isle over, officer Patrick Rigney and his three young shoppers examined the price tag of an L.O.L. Surprise Doll.
Walker Police Chief David Addison, who attended the event, praised his officers and employees for making this holiday season a memorable one for families in need.
“We’ve got a good group of people,” Addison said. “This is the time of year [when] my officers are so great that they want to give back to the community. They had a way they wanted to do it, and I’m thankful for what they stand for and what they’re doing.”
This is only the beginning of things for the Walker Police Association, which will host a rodeo April 12-14 at the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds. Former American Idol contestant Laine Hardy, a French Settlement High graduate, and Parish County Line are scheduled to perform during the three-day event.