A “wall of blue” was in full effect at the Cordova Walmart Saturday, all in service of the jolliest holiday. Forty-eight law enforcement officers took underprivileged children on free Christmas shopping trips, courtesy of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 35.
Officers participating in Cops-N-Kids 2013 represented Bartlett, Memphis, Mason, and University of Memphis police departments; Fayette and Shelby county sheriff’s offices; Memphis Airport Police; and West Tennessee Drug Task Force.
FOP officer John Troup, one of the event’s organizers, said the lodge’s members selected 42 children to attend, based on need. The children each got $150 to spend on age-appropriate items from their wish lists.
The items had to be for the children themselves, not for the household. Some children start with humble requests, like a gallon of milk, and have to be coaxed to pick out more than one or two gifts. Eager shoppers like tiny Kaliyah C., of Collierville, confidently hold up two packages to their cop pals and explain that they really need BOTH of them.
BPD officer Andy Koren is in his eighth year of taking part in the annual shopping sprees for kids. “They get to see we’re just ordinary folks in a uniform,” he said. “It’s great. Most of the time, they see us in a negative capacity. With this, they see the human side.”
He was paired with 7-year-old Dazari K. of Memphis, who had her eyes on a bold pink bicycle just her size. While she skipped along the aisles looking for other toys, Koren wheeled her new bike and kept joking to relax her.
Some of the children were unsure about walking around with uniformed officers. Elton S. of Memphis, admitted it was a little scary getting to know and walk around with a policeman. But his 12-year-old brother, Jesse, eyed the long skateboard tucked under the cart and said, “It’s actually kind of cool.”