12/14/2012 1:16:00 PM Kids get a lights-and-sirens ride to Shop With a Cop event Saturday
Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Deputy Lopez helps Ryleah Rodriguez, 9, pick out a toy helicopter for one of her relatives last year during the annual Shop with a Cop event at the Wal-Mart on Gail Gardner Way in Prescott.
Photo courtesy Matt Hinshaw
Lisa Irish Special to the Tribune
When you hear sirens early Saturday, know that Prescott-area children in need are getting a police escort to go Christmas shopping.
As part of the 15th annual Shop with a Cop event, children will be paired with an officer at Yavapai College in Prescott and, at 7:30 a.m., patrol vehicles - with their lights and sirens on - will proceed from the campus east on Highway 69 to Kmart in Prescott Valley.
Around 10 a.m., the children will return to Yavapai College in another lights-and-sirens procession.
"There will be a lot of sirens in both morning processions, and we would like the public to know about the event and to not be alarmed," Prescott Police Lt. Tim Fletcher said. "We appreciate the patience and understanding of the public as a special bond is formed between law enforcement and the children of this community."
Last year, Ryleah, 9, rode in a patrol car with Yavapai County Sheriff's Deputy R. Lopez and asked him, "What is this button for?"
"He said it was the siren, so I turned it on and spoke on the loudspeaker," she relayed with a grin.
Lopez smiled and added that Ryleah "wished everyone a Merry Christmas on the way over here."
After the children arrive at Kmart, Santa Claus will fly in on a Native Air Helicopter to visit. The kids will then have breakfast and shop with their officer.
The children will receive a set amount of money to shop for presents for their loved ones and themselves, Fletcher said.
Prescott Police Sgt. Ben Scott, who has been coordinating this year's effort, said 92 children - the most in the event's history - will shop for gifts with law enforcement officers. The officers, from 11 agencies in the tri-city area, volunteer their time, and other officers work their shifts for them.
"It's neat to see a program I started 15 years ago as a sergeant grow to what it is today," Prescott Police Chief Mike Kabbel said. "We're building a connection between the officers and the children and letting them know we're here to help them."
Shop with a Cop is paid for solely through donations from local businesses and community members, and has helped brighten the holidays for hundreds of needy children nominated by their schools and social service agencies.
"The money is provided by generous donors throughout the year to support the program," Fletcher said. "Many of these children would not have any Christmas if it were not for this program."
Volunteers will wrap the children's presents and give them a goodie bag.
"Seeing the smiles on their faces - that's what makes this so worthwhile," said Madelyn Smith, who has volunteered wrapping gifts for the past three years.
Anyone interested in making a donation to Shop with a Cop for next year's event is encouraged to call Sgt. Scott at 777-1962 or send a donation to The Prescott Police Department at 222 S. Marina St., Prescott, AZ 86303, make the check payable to the City of Prescott, and note that it is for Shop with a Cop.