What a better way to start the Christmas season than taking a ride in an emergency vehicle, sirens blazing, to Wal-Mart to spend a $100 gift card?
This is how Autumn Cox, 8 of Holts Summit, began her Christmas shopping. The third grader was chosen as one of the participants of the Shop With A Cop program. Personnel from Callaway County emergency departments took 39 children from the county to Fulton Wal-Mart between 5-6 a.m. on Dec. 11 to spend a $100 gift card donated by several area businesses.
Autumn was paired up with an officer from the Holts Summit Police Department. Autumn's father, Shawn Cox, said the opportunity meant a lot to Autumn.
"I think it was awesome," Cox said, "especially with the time we're going through. My wife just passed away a couple of months ago."
Since Autumn's mother died of cancer, Cox said he now has his hands full as a single father of five, so he appreciates what the program did for his daughter.
In memory of her mother, Autumn purchased a necklace with part of the money on her gift card.
"I picked one for my mom," she said. "It's got her name on it."
Autumn said even though she had to wake up "way early" to shop with her cop, she really enjoyed it and thought the ride to Wal-Mart in the patrol car was "cool."
Sgt. Joel Schramm with the Fulton Police Department is the officer who organized the event. He stated that an assortment of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances drove single file, with sirens on, to Wal-Mart, each emergency personnel person shopped with the child they were partnered with, and then volunteers helped wrap the presents before the children were brought back to family members at FPD.
Todd Gray, an engineer with the Fulton Fire Department, said this was the first year he participated in Shop With A Cop.
"I think it gives kids an opportunity to have a positive influence in their lives, and it gives them an opportunity to buy items for their family members that they wouldn't have a chance to do otherwise," Gray said.
He said the boy he was partnered with didn't only buy gifts for himself, but for his parents also. The boy will probably remember his trip to Wal-Mart on a fire truck the rest of his life, Gray said.
Though this year's program was the sixth time FPD held it, Sgt. Nikki Barnard, HSPD, said it was the first time she took children from Holts Summit up to join other area youngsters.
She said children are chosen based on need with the help of area schools. Personnel who participate in the program, Barnard explained, are rewarded with the knowledge that they helped kids who may not have been able to receive Christmas gifts from other sources.
Barnard was paired up with a 7-year-old Holts Summit girl who was pleased at how much she was able to buy with her gift card.
"They're just really shocked that they keep getting to get more gifts until they reach the amount of money that they were able to spend," she said. "We came out with a cart full."