Local law enforcement accompany children on annual Christmas shopping trip
The Grand Forks Police Department paid for gifts chosen by 23 kids at the annual Cops and Kids Christmas shopping event held Tuesday, Dec. 10.
After conferring with her family about what they wanted for Christmas, Olivia Wetstein, 9, arrived at Walmart ready with a list: Old Spice Body Spray. Fluffy robes and slippers. And lots of American Girl dolls.
Monday night, Dec. 10, at the Fraternal Order of Police annual Cops and Kids Christmas shopping event at Walmart, Wetstein was sorting through doll outfits with the help of Grand Forks Police Cpl. Beth Skari.
"We're looking for something that looks a little bit rich — like this," Wetstein said, holding one outfit up. "It has a brown fur coat, and it's a white dress, with black diamonds, and a little red bag with a white bow."
Skari, meanwhile, seemed to be having even more fun than Wetstein.
"It's like reliving Barbies," Skari laughed.
This year, the event matched 23 children with about 15 local police officers, North Dakota Highway Patrol officers and 911 dispatchers. After shopping for everything on their list, children were accompanied by officers to a gift-wrapping station, staffed by festive Walmart employees, and were treated to a pizza dinner.
The shopping spree was paid for by the Grand Forks Police Department with funds raised during its annual summer golf tournament, as well as a $1,500 grant from Walmart.
Cpl. Jon Lampi, the Grand Forks Police Community Outreach Officer, said kids frequently bring lists of gifts they want to buy for themselves, families and, sometimes, pets.
He said, for many officers, it's a highlight of the year.
"You see the other side of that, and see some people aren't as fortunate," he said. "These kids enjoy it. Sometimes, it might be the only Christmas present that they get for the holiday season. So it's one of those things that leaves you with a warm fuzzy, that's for sure."
This is the sixth year Skari has volunteered to help kids Christmas shop, and the third year she's brought her own children along, too. She said she loves that the event helps bring down walls in the community and gives officers an opportunity to joke around and have fun with the kids as they shop.
"We get so consumed in our own lives, and sometimes it's like, 'oh, what is everyone else doing,' or 'what's going on in the community,' and just to see if there's a need out there," Skari said. "And it's fun to help the kids and have a good time with them, and they love coming with us, too. They make you humble, and just really ground you as a person, too, because it's not always just about us and our needs and our families. There are a lot of people out there who don't have things."