About 20 Highland County children will be treated to a whirlwind day of fun during the annual Shop with a Cop event Tuesday.
The day, which pairs each child with a mentor who is a law enforcement officer, will begin with breakfast at the Old Y Restaurant south of Hillsboro. From there, the group will be part of a motorcade of about 100 lighted cruisers headed to Walmart in Hillsboro for Christmas shopping.
Following the shopping trip, the children will be treated to lunch at The Alley and a movie at Star Cinemas. The special day ends with present wrapping at Hillsboro’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9094. The officers will deliver the gifts to the families as Christmas nears.
“It gives them a day to get outside and just get some smiles on their faces, and probably the biggest joy of all goes to the officers who get to participate and take these kids out,” said Highland County Sheriff’s Deputy Damon Haught, who coordinates the Shop with a Cop event in Highland County and serves as the president of the Highland County Peace Officers Association.
“The kids enjoy it, and you can tell by the smiles on their faces,” said Haught. “It’s a good bonding experience for law enforcement and children at that age. It’s just a fun day.”
Highland County law enforcement has participated in the program that began in Brown County nearly 12 years ago since 2015. It is a joint effort by agencies in both counties.
“They get enough to shop for themselves and their families so everybody gets something,” said Haught.
Last year officers were unable to take the children shopping because of COVID-19 restrictions and elected to shop for the families and deliver the gifts themselves. “We’re excited to take the kids back out this year,” said Haught.
The event includes the Greenfield, Leesburg and Lynchburg police departments as well as other county law enforcement agencies. The Ohio State Patrol and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) also participate. Haught said between 30 and 40 Highland County officers will be involved.
Children between 9 and 12 years old are chosen to be part of Shop with a Cop by the local school districts. “They know the needs of the children, so we let them do the choosing,” said Haught. “They give us the information, and then we make contact with the parents to set everything up.”
Shop with a Cop is intended to demonstrate that law enforcement officers are a positive part of the community. “It was started with the hope that children in those age ranges get a positive experience with law enforcement,” said Haught. “A lot of times they don’t have a positive experience with law enforcement because a family member or someone they know has been in trouble with the law.”
Shop with a Cop is supported by fundraisers and donations throughout the year. Donations are tax deductible as they go to a nonprofit organization, and they can be taken to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office or the Hillsboro Police Department.
Donations can also be mailed to the Highland County Peace Officers Association, P.O. Box 1845, Hillsboro, Ohio 45113.
“We have a great opportunity to help out youth in our community, and it’s a lot of hard work putting everything together, but there are a bunch of us who do this, and we really enjoy doing it,” said Haught.
Information about Highland County’s Shop with a Cop program can be found on Facebook at the Highland County Peace Officers Association page.
“We appreciate the community support that has been with us all these years, and if anybody is out on the 14th and they see the cars coming through the town or they want to step out and wave on 62 and High Street in Hillsboro then they’ll get to see quite a parade between 8 and 9 a.m.,” said Haught.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.