About 40 local kids got a holiday shopping trip to remember earlier this month when they were partnered up with local law enforcement officers for the annual “Shop with a Hero” event.
Officers with the Mount Vernon, Burlington, Anacortes and Sedro-Woolley police departments, as well as deputies with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office and a state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer participated in this year’s event, said Lt. Chris Cammock with Mount Vernon police.
“It’s really an amazing experience,” Cammock said.
The event was held on Dec. 13 at Wal-Mart.
Children, generally ones from families experiencing financial or familial difficulties, are chosen by counselors from schools in the Mount Vernon and Burlington-Edison school districts, Cammock said. Each child was given a $60 gift certificate to spend how they wanted, Cammock said.
For some, that meant first picking out necessities such as socks and shoes.
“It’s extremely touching when you’re with a child who has a $60 gift card and anything in the store is possible, and they’re going over and they’re picking out necessity items,” Cammock said. “It’s just a humbling experience.”
This year, in addition to a $2,500 grant from Wal-Mart, the Fraternal Order of Police donated $350 and the Mount Vernon Police Services Guild donated $200, meaning more kids were able to be helped through the event.
Still, officers and deputies tend to want more for their shoppers, Cammock said.
“I don’t know one officer or deputy who attends who doesn’t leave there without making personal contributions themselves,” Cammock said. “You want them to have something special.”
One 17-year-old girl got a gift she likely wasn’t expecting.
The girl attended the event with her family who had recently fallen on hard times, Cammock said. When asked what she would want for Christmas, the family responded they would like any help in getting the girl her driver’s license.
An officer was able to get the girl a $500 scholarship to Munro’s Driving school in Mount Vernon.
“It’s reflective of the season and people wanting to do special things for people in different circumstances,” Cammock said.
Families were also treated to photos with Santa, who arrived to the event in the Mount Vernon Police Department’s armored vehicle.
Firefighters, paramedics and military members are also invited to participate in the event, he said.
The event has been held in Skagit County for at least 10 years, Cammock said. It grows, in both children and officers, every year.
“Each year we experience that and we’re touched by that,” Cammock said. “We tell our coworkers and the event just grows.”