Dec. 11--As 7-year-old Brian Cross wandered the aisles of Walmart searching for the perfect holiday gifts for his family members, he had an unlikely pair of helpers, serving as the elves to his temporary role as Santa Claus -- two recruits from the Westminster police academy.
Brian, as well as recruits Evan Kinsey and Joseph Tebo, spent the morning shopping for presents as part of Shop With a Cop, a nationwide initiative that provides children in need an opportunity to buy gifts for their loved ones during the holiday season.
Shop With a Cop is in its 13th year in Westminster, while the national program was founded in 1978. Throughout its local history, the Westminster Shop With a Cop program has benefited 268 children from 119 families in need. As part of the event, each child is given a $150 gift card that is used exclusively to purchase presents for their family members for the holidays.
As a reward for their seasonal selflessness, after the shopping spree, the children are presented with presents of their own, donated by community members and wrapped by officers and volunteers.
This year, 18 children from seven families came out to the Walmart in Westminster to find the perfect gifts for their family members for the holidays. Westminster police Chief Jeff Spaulding said this event is one that he looks forward to the entire year.
"It's always a great opportunity when we get to get out and interact with the community, with kids especially, who oftentimes only see police officers when something bad is happening," Spaulding said. "This is an opportunity to get to know us on a personal level and see us in a more positive light."
The day kicked off with a hot breakfast inside the Walmart, as officers and volunteers spent the time getting to know their young partners for the shopping spree. Kinsey and Tebo asked Brian about his life, interest in video games, and plans for the holiday season. When he told them he wanted to grow up to be a surgeon, Tebo had a word of advice for him.
"I bet you'd make a great surgeon," Tebo said. "Look, if you work real hard, you'll be a doctor one day; I promise you that."
Tebo is currently in the seventh week of the 27-week police academy, having signed up soon after returning from four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said serving others has always been a lifelong goal and something he tries to enact every day.
"Service is just something I've always been passionate about," Tebo said. "I have a child at home as well, so any time I have the opportunity to help a child and make them feel good about themselves is just an incredible, valuable experience."
The trio made their way directly to the toy section to start shopping for Brian's younger brother. As he rode on the back of the cart, the three passed by Logan Newman, a 7-year-old dressed in his own cop uniform for his shopping trip with Sgt. Jeffrey Schuster. Logan said he wanted to wear the uniform, which he got for Halloween last year, to fit in during the shopping trip.
Logan picked up a selection of presents for his brother, sister, mom and dad, including a copy of the game Operation and some Peppa Pig toys. After everyone checked out, they headed over to the Westminster Senior and Community Center to wrap and distribute the gifts. Kinsey said this would likely prove to be the most difficult part of the day.
"I'm used to wrapping presents in the local comics with duct tape," Kinsey said. "Hopefully this goes well."
(c)2016 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.)
Visit the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.) at www.carrollcountytimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News