Eagle County’s Shop with a Cop holiday event is the biggest yet | VailDaily.com

Eagle County’s Shop with a Cop holiday event is the biggest yet

First responders buddy with kids to tackle holiday shopping and gift wrapping

Vail Police Department Officer Kyle Pletcher helps check out the toys and goods the kids picked out Tuesday during Shop with a Cop at Walmart in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Local children and first responders got into the holiday spirit on Tuesday for this year’s valley-wide Shop with a Cop event. Every year, law enforcement agencies across Eagle County collect donations for an evening of shopping, gift wrapping, visiting Santa, food and fun. 

This year, 118 elementary school students enjoyed the event. The students who participate, selected by their schools, are from households that might be struggling to make ends meet this holiday season. 

The children rode from their schools to Walmart in Avon on buses courtesy of ECO Transit. Once they arrived, the students met with agencies that work right in the communities where they go to school. Whether it was the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle Police Department, Vail Police Department, Avon Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, or Greater Eagle Fire Protection, children were partnered with in-uniform first responders. 

Avon Police Chief Greg Daly helps pick out toys for kids Tuesday during Shop with a Cop at Walmart in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Firefighter Sean Coleman said events like Shop with a Cop lets kids become familiarized with first responders and are great opportunities for those serving the community to connect with residents — especially those who may be underserved or typically don’t see first responders outside of emergency situations. 

“Anybody in uniform is going to be pretty scary for a child,” Coleman said. “So, if we have an opportunity to interact with them, hopefully, it lessens that fear and it bridges a little bit of a better relationship.”

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Once they met up with their first responders, students took out their shopping lists and browsed the aisles for the perfect holiday finds. Eagle Police Officer Craig Westering said the 2022 Shop with a Cop event marks his 18th year of holiday shopping with local youth. 

Kids made out a wishlist for this year’s Shop with a Cop.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Westering said year after year it is rewarding knowing local law enforcement is coming together to help kids from less fortunate backgrounds. He said seeing how thoughtful and sweet the elementary students are makes being involved that much more fulfilling. Westering said the kids he has shopped with typically pick out gifts for their families before finding something for themselves.

“They’re definitely putting their family first, some kids don’t want anything for themselves,” Westering said. 

Donations from sponsors and community members funded each child’s shopping budget and other elements that made the event magical, Eagle Police Officer Dominik Scriver said. 

Law enforcement officers shop with kids Tuesdqy during Shop with a Cop in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Scriver, who coordinated the Eagle Police Department’s involvement in this year’s event, said Eagle businesses showed their support with their donations. All the giving allowed the department to be able to take four more students shopping this year.

“I think we doubled, maybe even tripled donations from years past,” Scriver said.

With their spending money, Scriver said students had the opportunity to practice their math skills, budgeting out how much to spend on each item. 

“The good thing about us being able to do this tax-exempt is the number they see on the shelf, it’s the actual price that we’re going to pay,” Scriver said. “So, it’s great for them to actually do that math and figure out how much money they have left.”

Avon Police Department Deputy Chief Coby Cosper helps pick out toys during Shop with a Cop Tuesday at Walmart in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

After checking out at the store, students were back on their buses and headed to their respective agencies’ after-shopping events. Vail students headed to the Four Seasons, Avon students headed to Avon Town Hall and Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum students headed to 4 Eagle Ranch. The after-shopping fun entailed gift wrapping, food and visits with Santa. 

Madison Vaughan, a records and information technician with the Eagle Police Department, said the gift-wrapping portion of Shop with a Cop helps her see just how meaningful the work is that first responders do to connect with the community.

“It’s very cool sitting with the kids and eating and wrapping presents and they’re kind of seeing their friends there and I think it just really hit to see that, you know, some of these kids might not have something under the tree otherwise,” Vaughan said. “That’s what really hit home.”

Avon Police volunteer Patricia Peterson organized the after-shopping fun at Avon Town Hall. She said every child ought to feel special during the holidays, and the support local first responders show at Shop with a Cop is appreciated.

“All of the police departments in the valley are so supportive of our community and our children and our families, it’s quite an honor to be working with them,” Peterson said. 

While first responders, including law enforcement, are the backbone of Shop with a Cop, Coleman said putting the event together and seeing it grow year after year is also thanks to other community members who support the event through sponsorship, donations or by volunteering. 

Avon resident Oscar Orduna volunteered to wrap presents at Avon Town Hall for the event. Orduna said that after attending this year, he’ll be back to help out at Shop with a Cop next year. He heard about Shop with a Cop through Avon’s Citizens’ Police Academy and said that these kinds of events are the heartbeat of a community.

“I don’t really know how to wrap, but I’m here trying and as long as the kids are having fun, we’re all having fun,” Orduna said. “I love how the officers are around and being involved with the kids growing up here. It makes them feel more welcome and happier. We just moved out here, so it’s a great experience, I wish more communities did this. It brings everybody together.”

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