Santa Claus sometimes wears a policeman’s badge |

Santa Claus sometimes wears a policeman’s badge

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

The Hernandez family mother Elizabeth, 6-year-old daughter Stacie and 4-year-old son Christofer browsed the aisles of the Kimball Junction Walmart Saturday morning looking for Christmas gifts.

In tow was Kacey Comer, a Park City Police Department reserve officer, who kept track of what Christofer was putting in the cart as the boy beamed a smile looking at the shelves of merchandise.

Comer was one of 100 police officers from upward of 15 agencies who descended on Walmart as part of the annual Shop With a Cop event for underprivileged families.

This year’s event was the largest ever, organizers said. The officers teamed up with the kids 100 of them — to look for gifts. Each child was allotted $100 to spend. There are normally approximately 80 kids who participate.

"He’s all excited for Santa and getting gifts," Elizabeth Hernandez said about her son. "I’m really glad my kids are able to have this."

The family lives in the Homestake condominiums in Park City and was selected to participate in the Shop With a Cop program based on its need. Christofer Hernandez picked a Disney Pixar model car and then Redakai cards. He put two pairs of pants in the cart as well as a DVD of "Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury."

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"He’ll be, like, OK, cool. Now is a happy time because it’s around Christmas," his mother said.

The daughter picked toys like an Elmo talking doll and Barbie dolls.

The police officers each year say Shop With a Cop is a favorite of theirs. It gives them the opportunity to meet young people in a happy setting that brings holiday joy to the families involved.

Comer, a reservist since 2010, participated in his first Shop With a Cop event on Saturday. He said the boy will be excited when he gets the gifts on Christmas.

"It’s all about the kids. Very seldom do you personally feel like you made an impact as far as truly helping someone out," Comer said.

The local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police put on the event, raising money to then be given to the children to spend on the gifts. Bob Lucking, a Park City sergeant who is the president of the local chapter of the police organization, said local, state and federal agencies sent officers to the event.

Lucking said the families seemed more in need this year than others have in the past. He said the economy is likely a major factor.

"This year it seems like the need is real. These kids are really in need. You can see by looking at their faces," Lucking said.

The officers and the kids started the day with a breakfast at The Yarrow, followed by a motorcade on S.R. 224 to Walmart. The officers put the police lights on and sounded the sirens as they drove, arriving at Walmart at a little bit after 8 a.m. They created a landing zone for a Life Flight medical helicopter, which shuttled in Santa Claus. The officers and the children quickly headed inside after the arrival of Santa Claus.

Up to 40 homesellers from Prudential Utah Real Estate were at Walmart as well to assist with the event. Steve Roney, the owner of the real estate firm, said Prudential Utah Real Estate contributed $3,000.

"It’s wonderful to see their faces smiling," Roney said. "This is a small town, but a small town with a giant heart."