100 kids shop with cops for Christmas

FOP holds 10th annual event at Walmart

Published On: Dec 20 2012 11:47:17 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 20 2012 11:51:37 AM EST
Officer helps girl put skates on
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

One hundred Jacksonville children are smiling because of a Christmas shopping spree Thursday.

It marked the 10th year the Fraternal Order of Police held its FOP Cops and Kids event.

"I picked out a barbie that goes with an airplane," one girl said.

FOP teamed the 100 deserving children with law enforcement officers for a day of holiday shopping at Walmart.

Children were nominated through several Jacksonville organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, 100 Black Men of Jacksonville, Police Athletic League, Jacksonville Housing Authority and Hola Noticias. Each of the five organizations selected 20 children as a reward for grades, behavior, attitude or similar qualities.

FOP President Nelson Cuba was in charge of the annual outing. He said the kids have big hearts and deserve Christmas presents.

"One of the kids last year, he didn't want any toys," Cuba said. "He said his family was hungry, there was no food and he ended up, you know, shopping for food, but of course we added additional dollars, pick yourself a toy and go ahead and feed your family."

Another reason the event is so great for kids is it makes them more comfortable around police officers.

"They don't have an opportunity to actually interact with them and see that they're regular people, too, and they're good people," said Thomas Raines, of 100 Black Men of Jacksonville. "So it's important that they get to walk around with the officers today and get a different view."

At Walmart, kids roamed the aisles with officers picking out whatever toy they wanted, as long as it stayed under the $100 limit. The children were paired with an officer and given a gift card for the one-on-one shopping excursion.

"It was really fun just going around picking out all the stuff that you wanted, and it was easier for the adults for Christmas," one child said.

"I think it was pretty fun and real nice of the cops to be doing this event for us, and I just got some skates and board games," another child said.

Parents were also grateful for the experience.

"They get to choose for themselves what they really really want and stuff that we might not have been able to get for them," parent Billie Jo Harris said.

The program is funded through the FOP's annual fundraising drive and works to reinforce positive interaction between children and officers.