In a year when most fraternal orders of police had to cancel their in-person events, the Johnson County chapter made it happen.
This year, 37 local kids shopped in shifts Saturday morning at the Greenwood Meijer on State Road 135. The smaller shopping groups allowed the event to go on while making sure the store was not too crowded amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, said Evan Preston, a sheriff’s deputy and board member for the county’s fraternal order of police.
With an increase in donations from the community, each kid this year was given $300 to spend on items they needed such as sweaters, coats and boots, as well as items they wanted such as toys, games, makeup and art supplies.
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“This year, our contributions from individuals, businesses and corporations in Johnson County is probably the most we have probably ever gotten. That helps us be able to help these kids,” Preston said. “People off the street were handing us $1,000 checks … That was cool to see in this law enforcement environment we are seeing.”
Kids were referred to Shop with a Cop through the United Way of Johnson County, with many participating from families whose finances were hit hard by the pandemic.
“We try to help out as many kids as we can every year. That’s our job. We’re here to help officers and help the community,” Preston said.
Franklin brother and sister Treasure and Ryley Radcliff teamed up with Deputy Chelsea Beaty and Doug Cox, former Johnson County sheriff, to fulfill their wish lists.
Beaty and Cox walked the store with the kids, urging them to pick up whatever they wanted and helping them try on shoes and hats to find the perfect fit.
The Radcliff kids filled their carts with plenty of necessities, toys and games. Both had fun and were excited to go home and play with their new toys, they said.
Their mom, Amber Radcliff, said she’s blessed her kids were able to participate this year. Radcliff lost her job working with kids on the Autism spectrum at the start of the pandemic, and keeping a new job has been hard with her own children doing eLearning at home, she said.
“This year has been tough and this really, really helped,” Radcliff said. “I lost my job because of COVID. It has been a struggle with schools opening up and then shutting down. I’ve been going to different jobs not being able to keep them because of the schools opening and (closing).”
Alexis Walsman, 12, shopped for winter clothes, art supplies, bedding, a hair curling wand and makeup with deputy D.J. Nuetzmann. Participating this year meant a lot to Walsman and her family, said C.C. Thomas, her aunt.
“I’m glad she did this. She’s hasn’t been able to get anything new like that. She’s been getting hand-me-downs,” Thomas said. “She needed something warm to wear.”
Making sure kids such as Walsman have necessities and something fun under the tree is what keeps Nuetzmann coming back year after year, he said.
“It feels awesome to be able to help them get things they might not normally be able to get,” Nuetzmann said.
Beaty, who participated in Shop with a Cop as a child, looks forward to the event every year because it brings back memories and helps new kids make their own.
“It is a great experience to have,” Beaty said. “It opens up kids’ minds to have a fun and exciting experience with cops and get the toys they want.”
Participating this year was especially important to Cox as a way to counter the negative light that’s been shed on police officers this year, he said.
“With what is going on out there in the world with police, it is important to teach the kids we are here to help and not part of the problem,” Cox said.