On Saturday morning, Delaware County children got a special shopping trip at the Delaware Meijer as the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) kicked off its annual “Shop with a Cop” event. A second round of the event will take place today at the Delaware Walmart.
According to the DCSO, the event has been running since 1996, and this year, 100 Delaware County children under the age of 12 will participate in the charity shopping trip accompanied by a law enforcement officer. Organizers said each child receives $155 to spend, but before shopping for toys, each child has to select a winter item like boots or a coat and one book.
Financial support for the event is provided by the Delaware Meijer and Walmart stores as well as through donations from Delaware Moose Lodge #1167, Delaware Eagles Ladies Auxiliary, and other individual donors.
The sheriff’s office reported that officers from Delaware, Shawnee Hills, Genoa Township, Westerville and Sunbury are participating in the event, along with troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and representatives from Delaware County EMS.
DCSO Chief Deputy Jeff Balzer, who helped children pick out toys and other items during Saturday’s Shop with a Cop event, said its one of his favorite community events of the year.
“It gives law enforcement the opportunity to have positive interactions with the youth of our county and helps families during the holiday season,” Balzer said. “For most of these children they have only seen law enforcement officers in the media and have never had a chance to talk with one in a safe, family friendly event. In addition to the books, clothes and toys, I give each child a junior deputy sheriff sticker and tell them I need all the help I can get to keep our community safe.”
Balzer said one of the children he shopped with picked out a toy for for a friend who had been bullied.
“When I shared the story afterwards with the youth’s mother, we both were proud of the character and compassion shown by her child,” Balzer said.
DCSO Lt. Rob Curren said he used to bring his children to the event to show them the importance of giving back. He added the event is special because it may be many kids’ first contact with law enforcement.
“(I want them to) see us as someone who wants to help them,” Curren said. “We truly are here to help them.”
Curren added his favorite part is seeing the children’s face when their name is called for their turn to shop.
“… You see that smile light up in their eyes,” he said. “(I enjoy) just talking to them and learning about them, and truly spending time with them and getting to know them. It’s an experience that we look forward to doing every year.”
City of Delaware Police Chief Adam Moore also led children on a shopping trip during the event.
“It’s always a privilege to be a representative of the police department, but extra special when you put smiles on children’s faces,” Moore said. “I hope that after shopping with officers, children see us as approachable helpers in the community they can reach out to when needed.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.