By Mike Kinney
Fifty young people shopped with a cop at the Walmart and Target stores in Richmond on Thursday.
It was part of an annual event put on by the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL).
The young shoppers were each given a $100 gift card to buy gifts for family members and friends. It’s always fun to watch the kids select gifts with careful thought, said RPAL Program Manager Mark Torres.
With sirens and lights flashing, police officers escorted youth in their vehicles to each store. Santa Claus drove the RPAL van. RPAL elves were part of the caravan.
“This is what the spirit of Christmas is all about,” said Richmond police Officer Steve Purcell.
It’s also about building relationships between officers, youth and the community, Officer Purcell added.
After the RPAL shoppers selected their gifts, they were led to an employee-only area of Walmart where they received all kinds of sweet treats, hot coffee and cocoa. And the kids snapped photos with Santa.
RPAL Executive Director Larry Lewis said the annual Shop with a Cop is one of many ways that RPAL works to lift up local youth, and show them that local officers have their backs.
“It shows that kids, parents and cops all respect one another and that builds a stronger community,” he said.