Law enforcement officers bring holiday hope to kids

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
ISP Senior Trooper Ken Beckner helps Courtney, 7, find a gift for her brother.

With their sirens blaring and lights flashing, dozens of police cars and fire fighting vehicles rolled into the local Walmart on Saturday, bringing with them a helping hand to children needing a gift of hope this Christmas.

Mountain Home's 13th Annual Shop-With-A-Cop program paired up 120 local area youngsters with representatives from city, county and state law enforcement agencies along with Air Force and Army National Guard representatives.

Each year, the program raises thousands of dollars to provide each of these children money to buy gifts for themselves and their families. In each case, these youngsters come from families facing extreme financial problems.

When the program started 13 years ago, local law enforcement officials helped 30 children in the local area. The need continues to grow each year, said Police Sgt. Rick Viola, one of the event's organizers. Without this type of program, those children faced the possibility of seeing nothing beneath their Christmas tree on Dec. 25.

"In 13 years, we've been about to serve about 1,000 kids and bring Christmas to them," Viola said. "We'd love to do more."

The day's festivities began at Mountain Home Junior High School where children received a hot meal courtesy of Mountain Home McDonald's restaurants as hundreds of volunteers waited for their turn to pair up with one of these youngsters. With the sounds of Christmas carols echoing across the school's common area, law officers and their temporary "foster children" took time to introduce themselves and to learn more about each other.

"This reminds you what the season is all about," added Mountain Home Police Chief John Walter.

Each year, it costs about $125 per child to make this program work, Viola said. Despite fund drives hosted by Pioneer Credit Union, Walmart, the local Sinclair service station and others, the program only raised enough money to serve 120 children this year, Viola said. It forced organizers to make the difficult decision to select these children out of the original 300 that signed up.

Following the day's shopping, chaperones helped the children pay for their purchases using $75 gift cards paid for from these donations. In many cases, law enforcement officers and military volunteers dug deep into their own pockets to ensure their children could afford their purchases. In some cases, the difference was just a couple of dollars. For others, it was a lot more.

Watching their children leave at the end of the morning was tough for people like Senior Airman Whitney Wolfe from the 389th Fighter Squadron. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she gave Mia a hug as the two said their good-byes.

"I can't put into words how I feel," Wolfe said as she choked back more tears. "There are so many people out there that have so many concerns. Seeing a child smile is one of the best things, the best feelings in the world."

See the Mountain Home News for the complete story.

More photo's available in the Mountain Home News Photo Gallery

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  • I would like to commend the MH Police Dept on a wonderful job again this year. I have participated in this event for the last 5 years, and look forward to it each year. I am not a police officer, but I am fortunate enough to be able to participate in the parade, there is nothing better than pulling into the Walmart parking lot and looking back clear down to 10th street and seeing a nonstop line of lights and cars. What a GREAT community we live in. All of these folks willing to come out on a COLD Saturday morning, to put a smile on the face of a special young child. The countless hours of preperation by all the organizers payoff when you get to see a young childs eyes light up while in the isles picking out presents. A GREAT JOB BY ALL THOSE INVOLVED!! Thank You and I look forward to next year.

    -- Posted by Auctionhunter on Wed, Dec 9, 2009, at 3:25 PM
  • *

    MHN could you provide a link to the pictures? The one posted as of 12/09/09 6PM links to Idaho Rally 09.

    Or if anybody has a link to it, post it.


    -- Posted by BassmasterJ8 on Wed, Dec 9, 2009, at 5:59 PM
    Response by Joy Martinez:
    The link has been fixed. Enjoy!
  • What an awesome story about the efforts of an amazing bunch of people. To say "well done" doesn't even begin to cover it.

    -- Posted by BruceGibson on Thu, Dec 10, 2009, at 9:04 AM
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