Law enforcement works Park City Walmart beat for underprivileged kids
Jay Randall, a Park City Police Department sergeant, worked a nontraditional beat on Saturday morning: the toy aisles at Walmart.
Randall was one of the law-enforcement officers from a group of agencies who were at the store to brighten the holidays for underprivileged children. The annual Shop with a Cop event drew between 45 and 50 officers to assist as upward of 75 youngsters moved through the store selecting gifts.
Randall was with three siblings, a 4-year-old boy, a 6-year-old girl and a 7-year-old girl. They live with their family in Elk Meadows. The kids picked up gifts for their mother and father, hiding them from the mother as she walked toward them. There was nail polish, lip gloss and a necklace for the mother. They found a thermal shirt for their father as well as a Christmas-themed tie.
"Maybe finally having the opportunity to have a regular Christmas that all their friends get," Randall, who has participated in 12 Shop with a Cop events, said about the morning. "To look in their eyes, you can see how excited they are."
The siblings finished shopping for their parents and moved onto the toy section to find gifts for themselves. They loaded the shopping cart with items like a toy veterinarian set, a toy school bus and a toy truck with a boat attached before heading to the checkout stands.
"We thoroughly enjoy it," Randall said.
The Police Department’s lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police organizes the annual Shop with a Cop. The three school districts in Summit County referred the youngsters to the program. Mikel Archibeque, a Park City police officer who is the president-elect of the department’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said each of the kids was given $150 to spend on gifts, up from the $100 per child in past years.
At least eight law enforcement agencies participated, creating a tapestry of different colored uniforms inside the store. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department from Kamas were the other local agencies involved. State and federal agencies – the Utah Highway Patrol, the state Division of Wildlife Resources, the United States Forest Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI – also gathered for Shop with a Cop.
"I think it gives them an opportunity they otherwise may not have," Archibeque said, predicting there will be "a lot of happiness and surprise" on Christmas.
The day started with a donated breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City – The Yarrow. The fleet of law enforcement vehicles slowly made its way to Walmart on S.R. 224 with lights and sirens activated. The vehicles arrived at the store before it was crowded with holiday shoppers.
As the youngsters filled their shopping carts, they headed to gift-wrapping tables before leaving with boxes of Christmas joy.
The kids who shopped with Randall arrived at the gift-wrapping tables with a cart loaded with toys. There were Matchbox cars and dolls. The green body of a Hulk toy peeked out from underneath. The youngsters left with a cart jammed with colorfully wrapped boxes.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties, a real estate agency with a large presence in Park City, assisted with the event. The Park City office raised approximately $7,500 for Shop with a Cop and more than 24 agents or office staffers volunteered to wrap the gifts, Ramon Gomez Jr., one of the agents who participated, said.
Gomez said he watched a young boy hug and thank the police officer who was with him for Shop with a Cop. He also saw one of the youngsters use some of the money to buy clothes for his brothers, sisters and parents.
"It’s to help somebody who’s less fortunate," Gomez said. "Christmas is about the kids."
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“The Park City Fire District chief said it is unlikely but not impossible the area will ever suffer a wildfire like the terrible Camp Fire that struck Paradise, California, in 2018.”