Sheriff: Shop with a Cop makes a difference for local families at Christmas (column) |

Sheriff: Shop with a Cop makes a difference for local families at Christmas (column)

James van Beek

It’s hard to imagine life in Happy Valley being anything but wonderful. We are surrounded by some of the most luxurious ski resorts in the world, and a simple walk outdoors reminds us of how very lucky we are to live here. Yet, some are not so lucky, even in Happy Valley.

People arrive here for many reasons, but they usually stay for the community. Many neighbors work multiple jobs just to raise their families in a place that is magnificent by any standard. The lifestyle is one that brings us back to nature, enlivens our sense of adventure, creates a feeling of belonging and becomes the ultimate definition of what we fondly call home.

However, there are those within our community who are struggling just to keep it together. Some lost everything to the recession and have yet to recover. Others are in such debt with student loans or business expenses that everything they earn is claimed before it ever hits home. Some have health issues that cost them every bit of savings they’ve earned. We have neighbors who struggle for food behind closed doors, too embarrassed to ask for help. There are those whose net worth is limited to what they have in their pocket, and a day off work is a day without money for heat or water in their homes. Some have children.

Along comes Christmas, and while it’s a time of giving, the families enduring hardships just see it as another thing they cannot participate in because there is barely enough money for basic survival. What do they say to the child who believes that Santa brings presents to all good children? Come Christmas morning and the tree is bare, are they left to believe that they are simply not good enough? While friends excitedly open presents, they are told by parents with broken hearts that there may not even be enough for dinner that night. How could anyone stand by and do nothing?

Law enforcement sees these circumstances firsthand and refuses to let another child ever feel like he or she is somehow less-than or not as loved. Understandably, parents must take care of the monthly essentials. Let law enforcement help take care of broken hearts at Christmas.

Shop with a Cop is one of our most treasured community events. By allowing children to shop for their families, it gives parents an extra few dollars to buy a little something for their most precious gift of life, their children. It also brings such hope and joy to the faces of these kids, who want so very much to give back. They understand the sacrifices that are made all year in their names, and it is the one time when they can return the favor.

Each deputy or officer gets to help a young child bring the Christmas spirit home. It’s the thrill of a lifetime for these kids, and we cannot keep from smiling all the way to Christmas Day. A few simple family gifts and food help carry them through the holidays and provide a memory these children will treasure forever.

They come to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas: giving to others. That special warm sweater for mom, the cuddly teddy bear for little sister, the train set for baby brother, the new gloves for dad and the family’s favorite dinner on Christmas Eve make this a gift of family memories.

This year, Shop with a Cop will be on Monday, Dec. 11, at Walmart in Avon from 4 to 7 p.m. We anticipate more than 80 children. Local first responders and other community members will help children with registration, gift-wrapping, food selection and visits with Santa. We are thrilled that The Four Seasons Resort Vail and 4 Eagle Ranch will be hosting the after-shopping events.

If you would like to participate in this very special project, then please drop off unwrapped, new toys, clothing, gift certificates or money donations to your local law enforcement office by Friday, Dec. 8. You will be making dreams come true for families who may be short on happiness this year. This is a holiday where it takes so little to make a huge difference in the life of a young child, reminding them that they truly are special and helping create a precious memory of a Christmas filled with the love of an entire community.

We at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office join local police departments, first-responder units and charitable organizations in sharing our gratitude for all that we are so fortunate to have and the ability to bring a little happiness to others during this holiday season.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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