The local Shop with a Cop program kicks off Wednesday morning at the Old Y Restaurant, south of Hillsboro at the intersection of U.S. Route 62 and SR 321, and according to hostess Kellie Greene a big crowd of law enforcement and area children is anticipated.
“We’re expecting between 20 and 30 officers and the children they’ll be with,” she said. “We’ll be serving breakfast starting at 8 a.m. and they’ll have the full menu to choose from.”
The annual event pairs regional peace officers with underprivileged children from around the area for a holiday shopping spree and an afternoon of fun activities.
Hillsboro Police Chief Darren Goudy said the program began with multiple jurisdictions across the country, and locally is sponsored by the Highland County Peace Officers Association, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in Highland and Brown counties, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
HCPOA President Damon Haught told The Times-Gazette it’s an all-day event where kids team up an area law enforcement officer and have $500 to spend on family, friends and themselves.
“We take the kids to breakfast, then go shopping at Wal-Mart,” he said. “Then they’ll go to lunch at LaRosas, take in a Christmas movie at Star Cinemas, and then we’ll transition to Paint Creek Station 23 here in town where they’ll wrap presents, eat pizza and enjoy some time with Santa.”
He said what makes it all possible is funding from organizations like Hillsboro VFW Post 9094, which last Thursday presented a check for $250 to the Shop with a Cop program.
“They’ve been very generous to us,” he said. “Not only the VFW, but a lot of local organizations and individuals as well.”
Haught said that law enforcement officials in neighboring Brown County have been participants in the program for about 10 years, with the plan being for officers from Highland and Brown counties to join up at the Old Y restaurant to start the day’s activities.
“The kids not only get to do the shopping, but there’s a lot of bonding that goes on, too,” he said. “A lot of the kids may not have had a positive experience with law enforcement, so we hope this gets them started out on the right foot.”
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said the kids will get to literally be the co-pilot in the police cruiser, adding that “it’ll be all lights and sirens when we leave the Y restaurant, all the way up U.S. 62 until we hit the Hillsboro city limits, then we’ll turn off the sirens, but the lights will be on all the way to Walmart.”
Highland County sheriff’s deputy Mike Gaines is the HCPOA treasurer and said he’s looking forward to going shopping again this year.
“For the last two years I’ve had a child, and after we’ve had breakfast we head out and go shopping at Walmart,” he said. “After that it’s lunch time, watch a Christmas movie and then wrap presents and see Santa Claus.”
He said “The Grinch” was the movie choice for this year, but added that his all-time favorite Christmas movie is 1988’s “Die Hard” with Bruce Willis.
“That’s been the subject of a debate in my family since it’s been out,” he said. “But other than that, I’d have to go with Ralphie and his BB gun from “A Christmas Story.”
Funding for the annual event was provided by police fundraisers and local sponsors, and area businesses donated food and services.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.