Park City-area law enforcement plays Santa Claus for disadvantaged youngsters
Shop With a Cop provides gifts for families that otherwise may have struggled during holidays
Santa Claus on Saturday wore a badge instead of a big belt and arrived in Park City driving a police car instead of riding a sleigh.
The Park City Police Department lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police held the annual Shop With a Cop event at Walmart at Kimball Junction, bringing members of law enforcement and youngsters from disadvantaged families to the store for holiday shopping that otherwise would have been a struggle for the families.
A line of law enforcement vehicles arrived at the parking lot at approximately 8:30 a.m., slowly entering from S.R. 224 amid the other traffic of holiday shoppers and skiers. The vehicles filled a large portion of the lot before the officers and the children headed inside.
Shop With a Cop brought approximately 75 youngsters to the store. They were recommended for the event through their schools or by officers who know the families. Each of the children was given $200 to spend on holiday gifts. The families of the children also received a $50 gift card to assist with a Christmas dinner.
The children moved through the aisles, gleefully, as they chose presents for themselves and others. The law enforcement officers followed with shopping carts that became more and more loaded as they calculated how much of the $200 was left after a youngster made their picks.
The shopping carts on Saturday morning were loaded with gifts like Lego sets, a miniature soccer goal, a soccer ball and action figures. Rick Penrod, a Police Department sergeant, entered the check-out stand rolling a bicycle, one of two that the youngsters wanted.
The president of the Park City lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, Ben Powers, said in an interview the event will help the youngsters celebrate the holidays.
“You can’t even put words to it,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see.”
Powers also said the event is beneficial to law enforcement since the youngsters “see the other side of police officers” rather than during an encounter prompted by a criminal matter.
Some of the Shop with a Cop participants outside the store greeted the horses of the Summit County Mounted Patrol, which is under the umbrella of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The horses were one of the highlights of the procession that arrived at Walmart.
The Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are the most visible law enforcement agencies in Park City and surrounding Summit County, but other agencies or departments with law enforcement duties were also involved on Saturday. They included the Utah Highway Patrol, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. Federal agents were also at the store.
Sponsors of the event included Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties, the Park City Area Home Builders Association and the Park City Peaks Hotel. Park City-area residents also provide financial support for the event throughout the year.
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The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee is expected to temporarily open a location along Main Street during the Winter Olympics in February. The USOPC and a related foundation will organize a Team USA Hospitality House at the Kimball Terrace.