25 Hollywood kids and their families dined on Chinese food and pizza with members of the Hollywood Police Department on Tuesday night before setting out armed with $100 gift cards for the annual Shop with a Cop night at the new Walmart on State Road 7 in Hollywood.
Each participant, selected by their School Resource Officer based on improvements they have made at school and the community, spent the evening shopping with their own police escort and got to spend their allowance on gifts for themselves and their families. The students, ages 5 to 18, were each surprised in school last week with the news that they were selected. They were driven to the Walmart in police vehicles.
Before shopping, the children and their families had the chance to meet with some of the leaders of the Police Department including Acting Police Chief Chris O’Brien. This is the second consecutive year that the Police Department has partnered with Walmart, which provided funding for the program through its Walmart Community Grant program.
“This event brings the police and young people together,” said Acting Chief O’Brien. “The kids see the police officers as human beings. It is important to invest in the youth and create bonds in the community.”
“This gives us a chance to give back to the community, and it gives kids who are doing well a little reward,” added Major Nicole Coffin.
Alan Centazzo, general manager for the Walmart in Hollywood, was pleased to have the event take place at his store. “We want to help out in the community, and we are glad to partner with the Hollywood Police Department to make this happen,” he said.
While most of the kids started by shopping for themselves, they also bought gifts for their siblings and parents with their leftover money. Additional volunteers from the police department were on hand to help wrap the gifts. Parents, kids and cops were all in agreement that a great time was had by all.