As holiday shoppers hurriedly ran around Target in Kalispell, a booming voice emerged from the children’s clothing section.
“Do you want to be a cheeseburger head?” said Columbia Falls Police Department Detective Steve Hughes as he slid the cheeseburger hat over the head of 7-year-old Dakota Bras. “They never have cool hats like this for me!”
With a brand new winter cap secured, Bras sprinted with Hughes toward the toy section, where a cart would soon be overflowing with boxes of Legos and Matchbox cars. Bras was one of eight children to participate in the Columbia Falls Police Association’s annual “Shop with a Cop” event. Every year, police officers work with the local school district to find children who might not have a gift-filled holiday and take them shopping for clothing and toys.
Officer Chad Sweigart first signed up for Shop with a Cop last year, and when the opportunity to take another child shopping arose this year, he jumped at it.
“It’s a great way to make these kids’ Christmas a little better,” he said. “As a police officer, we see a lot of people in bad situations, but this always makes up for it.”
Hughes has helped organize the event every year for more than a decade. He said the police association holds fundraisers every year to cover it and other activities. The clothing and toys are purchased with donations from the public and gift cards donated by Target. Super 1 Foods also gives each family involved a free Christmas dinner, while Smith’s provides gift cards to cover additional holiday trimmings.
While Hughes and Bras looked for a new pair of shoes, a woman walked up to the pair and asked what was going on. Hughes explained the program, and the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, handed him a $100 bill. She then went around the store to find other officers to help them out, too.
“That’s unreal,” Hughes said of the donation. “I don’t get a tear in my eye often, but that does it.”
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