Shop With a Cop

Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office deputy Kendra Burndt shop for gifts at Kaleidoscope Toys on Saturday. The day was the 12th annual Shop with a Cop.

A dozen kids from Salida and Buena Vista got to spend time with a local law enforcement agent on Saturday.

Officers took the kids shopping to buy Christmas presents for their family during the 12th annual Shop with a Cop event, but they also just got to hang out with the fourth graders.

The kids got to use the police radios, letting others know what store they were about to shop at or when they were getting hot chocolate or ice cream.

Salida Police Sergeant Nick Tolsma let Braden Drennon don his Chaffee County Task Force SWAT vest, which was about half as big as Drennon, before they went shopping.

“It’s pretty heavy, but not too heavy because I’m pretty strong,” Drennon said about the vest.

The kids and officers also ate lunch together, enjoying food from one of three local restaurants.

“This is an excellent program that helps local kids and families during the holiday seasons,” said Buena Vista Police Department chief Dean Morgan. The chief, as well as BVPD school resource officer Megan DiGirolamo, investigator Amber Lee and officer Chris Marusarz participated.

“We had numerous citizens from the Buena Vista area make sizable donations, and the overall generosity of the community was humbling,” Morgan said.

“Really the smiles is what it’s all about,” said Salida Police chief Russ Johnson. He added that a lot of the work the police does with kids is with those who are less fortunate or struggling, so it was good for the kids to see the officers individually and in a different light.

“It’s huge,” Johnson said about kids getting a positive interaction with police. “Not everybody has the same luck in life so anything we can do to bring cheer to the less fortunate is something we enjoy doing.”

In the program’s 12 years, Johnson said only one kid has later gotten in trouble with the law here while many kids still say hi to the officers that took them shopping 7 or 8 years later.

“That’s pretty good success,” Johnson said.

With a strong out pouring of donations coming in from all over the county, the kids also had more money to spend on presents for their families this year.

Johnson said each of the 12 kids received almost $300 to spend this season, which included a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Since the kids bought presents for their family with the money, the police gave them stockings filled with about $40 of candy and trinkets, as well as a board game.

Police also helped the kids wrap their presents so all the kids had to do when they left was put them under the tree.

The agencies that participated in this year’s event included the Salida Police, Buena Vista Police, Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Half of the 12 kids were from Salida and other half were from Buena Vista. The fourth graders were selected after their teachers made recommendations to the police based on need.

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