For more than 90 children and 62 law enforcement officials, the annual Shop With a Cop program got bigger and better Saturday.
Members of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25, which represents Westshore area police departments, took children from their respective communities shopping at Walmart and held a pizza party for them at North Olmsted High School afterwards.
North Olmsted Patrolman Bill Saringer, one of the event organizers, said it has gotten bigger and better each year.
“It’s the third year that we’ve held an actual event in North Olmsted and we’ve had more kids each year,” he said. “We had more than 90 of them this year and more than 60 officers. We had 35 kids from North Olmsted alone and 11 officers from North Olmsted, so some of the officers from Olmsted Falls, Olmsted Township and the (Cuyahoga County) Sheriff’s Department doubled up. But everybody seemed to be having a really good time.”
In addition to North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Township, some other Cuyahoga County communities represented were Bay Village, Fairview Park, Lakewood, Rocky River and Westlake. County sheriff’s deputies and federal law enforcement were also represented.
Saringer said Lorain County lodge officers were also well-represented with Avon Lake, North Ridgeville, Sheffield Lake and Sheffield Township officers taking part.
“It’s something we all really enjoy doing,” Saringer said. “It’s really humbling to be with kids who need a few things and just enjoy being out there with us.”
Saringer noted in addition to the three years of hosting it in North Olmsted, Lodge 25 took part in the overall event for several years with the George Murray Lodge, which is based in Cuyahoga Heights and represents 17 other cities.
“They had about 350 kids take part in the event they hosted,” he said. “So, it turned into some pretty good numbers for the entire event.”
He said other shoppers also got into taking part.
“We had a couple of firsts,” he said. “One woman just walked up to one of the officers and handed him money, saying it was for the kids. Others found out what we were doing and gave us names and phone numbers.”
North Olmsted Captain Jamie Gallagher, the officer who was given the money unpexpectedly, said the event remains special for officers.
“It’s great to be able to do it,” he said. “The kids just light up around the officers and get to pick up different items. The pizza party had a lot of great food as well.”
Gallagher admitted to being somewhat startled when the woman was trying to give him the unsolicited money.
“That’s not the type of situation an officer really wants, someone walking up and handing them money that they weren’t looking for,” he said. “But her intentions were good. I was trying to write her a receipt and make sure it was all handled properly. She didn’t really want it, so I just ran the money over to Bill (Saringer) to put with all the other stuff for the kids.”
Saringer said the new funds and names will be put to good use on behalf of the children.
“All the people involved were great,” he said. “Walmart did its usual great job of helping us out.”
Donna Griffin, the store manager, said Walmart employees look forward to the event.
“It’s an honor for us to be able to take participate in it with the police and the kids,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun to see them as they pick out the different items. Most of the kids will also pick out different items for a parent, a brother or something for someone else even if they only have a limited amount of money on the gift cards. They really seem to get into the spirit of this.”
Griffin said the store has to make some preparations for the event, but said it’s always well worth the time and effort.
“We always get a lot back in terms of appreciation,” she said.