BULLHEAD CITY — Christmas has come early for more than 100 Bullhead City children.
And Santa Claus didn’t sneak around, but sat on a bench to talk with them.
The Bullhead City Shop with a Cop program, in its 23rd year of bringing holiday joy to underprivileged children, began with a predawn breakfast at the Elks Club, followed by a caravan of patrol vehicles (plus a classic fire truck and a customized ambulance) to Walmart, where each child had a guided $100 shopping spree.
Auden Weiss, 8, shopped with Det. Andrew Sevillano of the Bullhead City Police Department. He collected a Batman action figure, a Spider-Man toy, a Nerf gun and other items.
“A hundred dollars goes a long way if you shop smart,” Sevillano said.
He has been getting up extra early — 4 a.m. this time — to participate in the event for at least 14 years.
“I love it,” he said. “I do it for the kids.”
The Shop with a Cop nonprofit hosts the event.
Officers want to give the children a positive experience with law enforcement and get the holiday season off to a good start, said BHCPD community services officer Lorrie Duggins.
For many, Duggins said, the kids’ reaction is the payoff. And the joy spreads.
“There was a shopper who saw what we were doing,” Duggins said. “She was so touched by the program that she bought two $100 gift cards and donated them to us right on the spot.”
Community support is key in keeping the program going, she said.
“I can’t even tell you how humbled I am by the generosity of the community to bring so much joy and happiness to each one of these children,” she said.
Heather Herndon said Shop with a Cop made a huge difference for her children, Hayden and Sean, each of whom recently had a bike that was later stolen.
“This means they’ll actually get a Christmas,” Herndon said.
Hayden was clearly in a merry mood, piloting her new bike down the aisles.
National Park Service ranger Kelsey Cassidy played the role of concerned adult, making sure that Hayden also got a helmet.
Sisters Jacqulyn and Jacinda Cruz-Castillo left with a cart full of dolls and clothes.
“They got stuff I couldn’t afford,” said their mother, Mary Cruz.
Several officers’ spouses were on hand to assist, as were volunteers from the local Kohl’s Cares group and other organizations.
After shopping, children could visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy homemade cupcakes.
Volunteers from Boy Scout Troop 104 of Mohave Valley staffed a gift-wrapping station, and Walmart employees wore festive headgear as they helped the young shoppers. The store also dedicated several checkout lanes to Shop with a Cop.
Herndon said that Sean’s birthday recently passed, but he did not get a party.
“This really helps,” she said. “It’s really nice of the people. They don’t have to do it, but they do it.”