The Walmart in Laramie was buzzing with excitement on the afternoon of December 18. Police cars arrived one after the other, each carrying an officer and a lucky elementary school student.
As they made their way inside the building each pair was given a gift card and a shopping cart, and they posed for a photo before starting their shopping spree. Smiling eyes could be seen above masks as they walked together – most heading towards the toy section first.
The 1st annual Shop With a Cop event in Laramie was a huge success, thanks to many helping hands. “We couldn’t have done it without help from all of our sponsors – the donations, the agencies, the media, the Police Department foundation, Walmart…,” says Assistant Police Chief Robert Terry.
The community support of this event was vast, and included donations from Walmart, First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative, and donations received through the Laramie Police Department Foundation. Any additional funds received above and beyond what is needed for the Shop with a Cop event will go to providing school lunches for children in need throughout Albany County who cannot afford to buy them and who may not qualify for the federally funded programs.
27 students were given $100 to spend on whatever they chose. Many shopped for family members as well as for themselves. Carts included dolls, trucks, blocks, blankets, and even some cookies. Officers from Laramie Police Department, UW Police Department, Highway Patrol, and Albany County Sheriff’s Office helped the students choose gifts to pile inside their carts. When they were finished shopping, they made their way outside to receive additional gifts donated from the Highway Patrol Association, as well as a turkey donated by the Laramie Hilton Hotel.
Although the weather was cold and snowy, the scene was a joyous one – kids happily chatted with officers and tested out the lights and sirens on the squad cars. Officer Alex Bailey of the LPD, who led the effort to coordinate this event, says that the purpose of this event was twofold. “Our intent is to bless these kids during this holiday season and give them a positive experience with law enforcement officers.”
Assistant Police Chief Terry is hopeful that this is just the beginning of the Shop With a Cop event here in Laramie. “It’s been an unbelievable experience for the very first year and next year is going to be even better.”
By Rhianna Handschu for This is Laramie. Photos by Rhianna Handschu.