SPRINGFIELD TWP. The dreary day of rain and snow didn’t dampen the spirits of 90 young Christmas shoppers who were on a mission to do some holiday shopping during the annual Shop With A Cop event on Dec. 14.

The bright lights of police cruisers loaded with participants from Springfield Police, Volunteer Auxiliary Springfield Police (VASP), Springfield Police Explorers, Metro SWAT, Hartville, New Franklin, Uniontown and Akron police departments, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Akron Coach and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) were flashing and sirens were blaring. Kids were wishing those coming out of their homes to see the “parade” a Merry Christmas over the speakers.

The annual event is organized by the Springfield Police Department and coordinator Kate Thurston. She said she wanted to thank Sgts. Joe Gaffney and Eric East, Det. Chris London and officers Shawn Brady and Codey Mead for their help with the event.

The children from all police departments receive a gift card to shop. Money is raised through businesses, residents and organizations that donate to help each child shop. Shop With A Cop day is always an exciting day for the Wal-Mart employees, who say they always want to work on that day because they love seeing all the smiles on the kids’ faces (and their chaperones) as they run the toy aisles choosing special items.

The Shop With A Cop program is held in communities across the country and the Springfield Police Department has been hosting it for local departments for the last nine years.

Watching the little shoppers is a treat for the chaperones from police officers and local officials to residents and students volunteering to help in some way throughout the day. The morning began with the children and chaperones meeting at the Springfield Junior Senior High School for breakfast and then the cruisers were loaded with the excited shoppers. The long parade of vehicles took little shoppers on a trip south on Canton Road to Killian Road and a noisy siren filled left turn onto Arlington Road and into Wal-Mart where many came out to greet them.

Early morning, Wal-Mart shoppers were shocked when, in a blink of an eye, the store was flooded with little shoppers and police officers. Once they realized what was going on, many stopped to watch the smiling faces.

The number one shopping area was the toy area, but electronics got a big run of shoppers as well.

Wal-Mart Asset Protection Manager Angie Meyer said it is a great event.

“For us to be able to partner with them helps kids get a Christmas they don’t normally get,” she said.

Meyer said it is a wonderful thing to be able to work with the police departments, to build that partnership with them in the community.

Once the kids completed their holiday shopping, they had an opportunity to make a sock puppet. Making the puppets is a big part of the fun for the kids and while they are doing so, the chaperones check out the items the children purchased. Wal-Mart always has gift cards at the register for those going over their limit. The idea is for the children to get some gifts for themselves, however, they come with lists to buy for their families and friends. Officers say it is heartwarming to help the kids shop for those items that are so special to them.

After shopping, the wonderful elves, take their bags of prized items and load them on the school buses. The shoppers and their chaperones head back to school where they have lunch and visit with Santa. What they didn’t know was, while they were eating and having fun, “elves” in another room were wrapping all the gifts in pretty paper and bows and placed them in bags for the kids to take home and put under the Christmas Tree.

It takes many people to make the day come together,Thurston said, including the staff of Springfield Local Schools and Wal-Mart. She also thanke Nancy Rodrigues of Springfield Cares, the Springfield Township Women’s Club. T’s N Things, Lakemore Lions Club, The Rotary Club, Gionino’s, Giant Eagle, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Stacked Akron, St. Gobain, the National Honor Society of Springfield High School and all the chaperones.

“There is no better feeling than seeing the smiles on all the kids faces,” Thurston said. “This really is special for them. We have a great school and community always willing to come together for our kids.”