Cops play Santa Claus for underprivileged children
John Boyer on Saturday morning was walking the aisles of the Walmart Supercenter at Kimball Junction with his two sons, 10-year-old Michael and 6-year-old J.R., and Kacey Comer, a Park City police officer.
The Hoytsville family was not anticipating a grand Christmas this year. Boyer said the money in the family is tight as the holiday approaches. He could have spent $30 on each of the youngsters.
The mood was changed by the middle of Saturday morning, as the Boyer boys picked out some gifts as part of the Shop With a Cop program, an annual event that teams law enforcement officers with underprivileged children whose families might otherwise not be able to buy gifts.
"They’ve gone through a lot, these boys. They really needed this to feel the Christmas spirit," Boyer said.
Had they not taken part in Shop With a Cop, he said, they likely would have received shoes, a toy and some candy for Christmas.
Michael and J.R. browsed the aisles before there were big crowds of regular shoppers in the store. The shopping cart was loaded with hiking boots, sneakers, other shoes, a Hot Wheels set, a toy police car and helicopter, a winter jacket and a blanket.
"This is a big deal. This year was going to be a small Christmas for them," the father said.
The Shop With a Cop event on Saturday involved approximately 70 youngsters — 45 from Summit County and the rest from Wasatch County. Schools, religious groups and police officers provided the names to the organizers. Each child was given $100 to spend.
At least eight agencies were involved, and approximately 60 officers took part. They included the Park City Police Department, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department in Kamas. State and federal agencies were also represented.
The day started with a breakfast at The Yarrow Hotel followed by a law enforcement motorcade along S.R. 224 to the Walmart Supercenter, with the lights and sirens activated. The vehicles pulled into the parking lot, keeping the sirens and lights on while they awaited the arrival of Santa Claus on a medical helicopter. The helicopter hovered briefly before touching down and letting Santa Claus out.
Comer, the officer who shopped with the Boyer family, has been a reservist in the Police Department for just more than two years. It was his second Shop With a Cop.
"They seem to be pretty humble kids. They were really excited. They were grateful for the opportunity," Comer said, adding that Christmas will be a nice day for the Boyers. "It’s going to be a good time, for sure."
Prudential Utah Real Estate and the agents who work there donated a large part of the funding for Shop With a Cop. Agents were at the event assisting. The Park City High School Interact Club had 10 members at the store wrapping presents as part of a community service project.
Mary Leader, an agent with Prudential Utah Real Estate who organized the firm’s involvement with Shop With a Cop, said upward of 20 agents volunteered Saturday morning.
"This puts one in the right spirit this time of year, a sense of giving," she said.
The Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, had 12 deputies participating. Justin Martinez, a Sheriff’s Office captain, was paired with three siblings from Heber. They picked gifts for family members as well as themselves.
"Some families are struggling to get back on their feet," Martinez said, adding, "It gives them that Christmas spirit they might not have ever had."
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.