- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 12, there were cops everywhere.

City patrol officers, county deputies, lieutenants, sergeants, captains, detectives - there were enough officers in and around Wal-Mart and Target to provide extras for every cop show on TV. But the people they were leading through the aisles weren’t shoplifters - they were children.

Lots and lots of children. More than 50, in fact, and each one was getting a special holiday treat from either the Murfreesboro Police Department or the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.

MPD took 19 children shopping as part of the department’s annual Shop with a Cop program. The children, their parents and the officers started their morning being treated to breakfast at McDonald’s inside Wal-Mart on South Rutherford Boulevard in Murfreesboro.

Accompanied by officers, the children were given $250 each to purchase games, toys and clothing items. Each child was also given a bicycle.

“Even though we were helping the kids buy presents, it was the officers who received the real gift,” officer Haley Alden said. “The child I shopped with purchased games and clothing, but was concerned about wanting to help other children. It was an amazing experience.”

This event was funded through donations from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Angels for Protectors, PATCO, McDonald’s and several private individuals who wished to remain anonymous.

“I am truly blessed to be able to serve my community as a police officer. To have the opportunity to spend time with these kids outside of the traditional role of a police officer and show them that we are good people made this Christmas special,” officer Chris Williams said.

At Target, it was the county’s law enforcement moving the children through the aisles.

Ivo Johnson, 7, clutched the Batman T-Rex Robot he selected for Christmas during the annual Shop with the Sheriff trip at Target.

“I don’t need many presents,” Ivo said. “I have been waiting for this day for a couple of months.”

Ivo was one of 33 children who shopped at Target with Sheriff Robert Arnold, school resource officers and RCSO employees and volunteers during the annual event, which is funded by donations collected at Toot’s locations. The students were chosen based on need by the county schools.

Student Lillian Kennedy grinned as she showed Arnold a stuffed Dalmatian she named Polka Dot. Lillian’s family lost all their belongings in a recent house fire.

Marissa Council couldn’t decide what “Frozen” toys she should choose. Finally, she settled on Elsa’s Ice Skating Rink.

“I love this!” she exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around the box.

Before shopping, the children ate a buffet breakfast at Farmers Restaurant. The sheriff thanked Toot’s and all the sponsors who donated money to fund the event. He thanked the SROs and everyone who helped the children shop.

“It was heart-warming to watch these children become so excited about buying Christmas presents,” Arnold said. “Many of the children chose presents for their brothers and sisters and their parents. They showed the true meaning of giving.”

MPD and the Sheriff’s Office don’t hold the monopoly on cop philanthropy. On Dec. 21, Smyrna police will be shepherding children through the Smyrna Wal-Mart at 7 a.m. as part of its Shop with a Cop program.

“We will meet for wrapping the gifts that evening at the Town Centre around 5 p.m. and delivery will take place the following morning,” said Sgt. Bobby Gibson, spokesman for Smyrna police.

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Information from: The Daily News Journal, https://www.dnj.com

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