When Skyler Toms completed his shopping trip at Walmart last Thursday, he was set with two Lego kits to use with his Lego movie app. Toms, a sixth-grader at Spinning Elementary School, and six other children from six Puyallup elementary schools paired off with police personnel and ventured through the store.
The students were part of the Puyallup Police Department’s seventh annual Shop with a Cop program. Two additional children were absent but were later treated with gift cards and a goodie bag.
Major sponsors were Walmart, Fred Meyer and Trackside Pizza, which provided lunch.
“I’m looking forward to everything,” Toms said. “It’s so cool to be here.”
Store manager Micah Roth presented each student with a $25 gift card. Students searched for gifts for themselves or for family members.
“It’s always fun for the children to come out,” Roth said. “Walmart is all about the community, and any way we can help out, we’re excited to do so.”
Officer Rob Kearney said it’s always a joy to watch the students’ passion.
“Invariably, you will see them shopping for parents, sisters, brothers, not for themselves,” Kearney said. “It’s a lesson we should all pay attention to.”
Later in the afternoon, after they enjoyed downtime at the South Hill Mall’s Super Jump Party Zone, the officers and students finished at Fred Meyer on River Road. There, students each received a $50 gift card. They also received a gift bag from the officers.
If students are unable to purchase something, officers step up to help in any way they can, Kearney said.
Last year, Officer Walter Anderson, a 34-year veteran of the department, spent $75 on a watch and clothing for a female student.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Anderson said.
Officer Mark Ketter and Capt. Scott Engle were the lead organizers of the program. The department’s problem-oriented policing unit started it seven years ago.
“I load up with a couple dozen donuts and chocolate milk, swing around to all the elementary schools and start picking up kids one at a time,” Ketter said. “We have snacks and play a game, and students interact with the police officers. We have a chance to relax.”
Ketter said the kids are always very good.
“They stand out as those who step up and help out,” he said.
Stewart Elementary Principal Abigail Chandler selected fifth-grader Skyler Jayatilake for the program.
“He was so thrilled with the gift cards,” Chandler said. “He got a Starbucks gift card for his mom. He had change left over from the $25 gift card and gave it (to charity) outside of Walmart. I was glad he could be a part of that.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001.