The journey into the shoe section started with an audible gasp, quickly followed by, “I want those ones, the boots!” from the little girl seated in the shopping cart at Target.
As one of the eight children selected to join Columbia Falls police officers for a shopping spree throughout the store on Dec. 12, new boots, clothes and toys were expected to fill up her cart by the end of the evening.
The annual Shop with a Cop event typically helps five or six kids, Columbia Falls Police Officer Mike Johnson said, but it was evident that a few more families needed help this year.
“It seems to grow every year,” Johnson said before the shopping began. “There’s a little more need.”
Children from three or four different families would get the chance to peruse the aisles of Target that evening; four girls and four boys. The girls wandered through the clothing section with adult women to help them pick out the clothing items they had written down on lists, while several police officers guided the boys to do the same.
Johnson said most of the kids were in need of essentials for their winter wardrobes, like boots or shoes. In a special set of circumstances, one child came to the event owning only one set of clothes. The Shop with a Cop night would ensure that this child would have more, Johnson said.
“If there’s a need, we try to help them,” Johnson said.
The children are usually selected through recommendations from the schools, Johnson said, and are typically kids who didn’t meet the criteria for other organizations that might have helped them along the way.
“(These kids) might have fallen through the cracks,” Johnson said.
Once they were done shopping for clothes, the kids commandeered their shopping carts to the toy section, picking through Hot Wheels, action figures and other exciting items.
Each year, the Columbia Falls Police Association holds a fundraiser to help support the Shop with a Cop event. The 2013 event is slated to take place on Feb. 1 at Columbia Falls High School, Johnson said.
However, anyone wishing to make a direct donation to the program is welcome to do so at any time throughout the year, he added. Donors can either get a hold of Johnson through the police department at 406-892-3234 or send checks directly to the police department at 130 Sixth St. W #A.