Cops help kids for Christmas
Thirteen kids from six families got a chance to spend the evening on Thursday Christmas shopping with a police officer, during the Siloam Springs Police Department’s annual Shop With a Cop event.
The families met with officers at the police department for milk and cookies, where they had a chance to hang out with Santa, ask him some questions and jump in his lap for pictures. From there, they headed to the Walmart on U.S. Highway 412 and met in the garden center for a group picture before officers paired off with kids to begin their shopping trips.
Each child was given a $100 budget, with $50 intended for necessities like shampoo, toothpaste or clothing, and $50 for desired items such as toys or video games, according to communications officer DeAndra Strickland. The department also provided vouchers for a full-spread holiday meal from Harps to each family, which are
redeemable through Dec. 23, she said.
Officer Nathaniel VanPaepeghem, a patrol officer who has been on the force for three years, participated in the event for the third year in a row. He was paired with Aiden, an eighth-grade student at Siloam Springs Middle School, who walked up and down different aisles with a smile on his face, joking around and making conversation with VanPaepeghem as he picked out different items on the shelves. VanPaepeghem said the night went great and that interaction with kids like Aiden are what makes this event worthwhile.
“The overall joy that you see on the kid’s face when they get to pick out what they want and what they need is what makes it worth it,” VanPaepeghem said. “It’s a good way for us to do community outreach. The families really appreciate it and we really appreciate the community that we have, so it’s a time when we get a chance to pay it forward to the people in the community that need it. There’s still kids and families that see me in public (that have participated in previous years) who will come up and say hi or give me a hug. … I’ll absolutely be coming back (next year).”
This event is held at the end of each year and is a collaborative effort between the police department and the Siloam Springs Regional Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 68, a nonprofit organization consisting of active duty police officers in Siloam Springs, Strickland said. Police Chief Jim Wilmeth has always been supportive of the event and he works closely alongside the Fraternal Order of Police to help make it happen, she said.
When officers from the Fraternal Order of Police participate in this event and others alike, their involvement is voluntary and they are on their own time, Strickland said. In past years, funds for the event have been raised from officers collecting donations outside of Walmart. This year, a couple of different fundraisers were held at local businesses, such as a chili cook off that was held at Creekside Taproom.
The Siloam Springs Police Department is located at 100 U.S. Highway 412 W. More information about the department is available on its Facebook page or by calling 479-524-4118.
The Siloam Springs Police Department held its annual “Shop with a Cop” event on Thursday night, where a group of kids in the community were able to go on a shopping trip with officers. The event began at the police department, where milk and cookies were served to the kids and their parents, following a visit from Santa. Afterwards, everyone made their way to the Walmart Supercenter on U.S. Highway 412. Above, a girl waits as Santa begins to answer her question.
Officer Nathaniel VanPaepeghem and Aiden, who is in the eighth grade at Siloam Springs Middle School, begin their shopping trip by looking for body wash, shampoo and other cosmetic products.
The kids and officers gather for a group picture just before going their separate ways to shop.