NBC26 is excited to launch a new partnership with Shop with a Cop. The annual event pairs children in need with local officers and deputies who go shopping together for holiday gifts for their families. Every law enforcement agency in Brown County participates. It's an event that relies on donations, and this year, they could use some extra help.
Thomas Jacquart will never forget his experience shopping with a cop.
"I never met a police officer in person, so it was kind of a new thing."
The fifth grader was chosen for the event after his family encountered some struggles.
"Thomas had kidney surgery four years ago and the medical issues just kind of got ahead of us, and I also deal with some medical issues myself." said Thomas' mom, Amanda Jacquart.
Shop with a Cop provides children in need with $150 in donated spending money. The kids are paired with an officer. They have breakfast together and go through their shopping list to determine the greatest needs. Then, they stroll the aisles of Shopko to pick out Christmas gifts for their family.
"I remember one year a kid came to me and he had one item on his list and that was a Christmas tree, and that's what we bought," said Jedd Bradley, Community Resource Officer with the De Pere Police Department.
Bradley says, too often, children only see law enforcement during a negative situation.
"It's because of an accident. It's because of a domestic abuse situation. It's because of something else that's going on. This gives that child the one-on-one time with a cop, and they get to see us as a person."
Amanda adds, "I think it built a lot more trust with the officers."
Brown County Deputy and School Resource Officer Michael Calmes organizes Shop with a Cop.
"It makes me feel great. I love it."
After a major partner pulled out this year, he's encouraging the public to donate.
"I can always get more officers to volunteer. I can always get more kids to fill the spots because there's lots of need for that, but our funding is really what ultimately drives this."
Shopko has been a committed sponsor for years. They even give the children free winter gear during Shop with a Cop.
"Christmastime is difficult on anybody, so to know that we're able to support this program and help those in need during the holidays is just very special." said Michelle Hansen, Manager of Public Relations and Shopko Foundation.
The event leaves families experiencing hard times with gifts under the tree.
"It just kind of made me cry," Thomas' mom said with a chuckle.
And leave the kids and the cops with new friendships to cherish.
"It just put a smile on my face," said Thomas.
"The warm, heartfelt joy that you get when you do this with these kids and families is indescribable," added Officer Bradley.
Shop with Cop is coming up on Saturday, December 8th. The kids also wrap the gifts they pick out with the officers.
Click here to donate and learn more about the program that serves about 200 families every year.