Law enforcement officers playing the role of “Blue Santas” paired with 25 to 30 children to help them shop Tuesday for Christmas at Wal-Mart on Troup Highway.
The Blue Santas’ shopping expedition was started many years ago to make sure children from abusive situations have Christmas, Tyler Police Detective Dianna Brown said.
An officer walked around with each child as the children picked anything they wanted or needed up to $100 worth of goods.
The children are from the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County, where children who have suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse or seen a violent crime are forensically interviewed and receive various services and therapy.
“We are trying to help parents or grandparents or foster parents raising these kids who can’t afford to do much for Christmas to help relieve some of that stress,” Detective Brown said. “Some of these kids wouldn’t have Christmas if it wasn’t for being able to go out and do this.”
Also, the shopping trip provided positive interaction for the children with police.
“They just need a positive exchange with us, a good time,” Detective Brown said.
Police and children gathered at the front of Wal-Mart, and children picked which officer they wanted for their shopping partner. Officers walked over to shy kids, introduced themselves and said, “Hey, let’s go shopping.”
“We are there to help them look at the toys, pick out something that is age appropriate, and if they are picking out clothes, help them with that,” Detective Brown said. “We let them know we are their friend. We want them to have a good time. We are trying to help them out.”
She described the children as “amazing,” noting that many of them wanted to buy gifts for family members and not just for themselves while many bought shoes or similar items rather than music they would rather have.
Officers who participated are members of the East Texas Regional Lodge Fraternal Order of Police. Members are from several cities including Tyler, Bullard, Lindale and Whitehouse and also represent school districts and colleges.
Funds for the shopping trip were collected through donations to the organization and fundraisers.
Officer Johnny Green, who works with Tyler Police Department’s community response division, accompanied two boys around Wal-Mart, yet stood at a distance out of their way while encouraging them to pick what they wanted up to $100.
“I enjoy being with the kids and seeing what they pick out,” Green said.
He kept a tally of the cost of items each boy selected and informed them how much they had left to spend after the boys put an item in their buggy.
At the start of the shopping trip, the older boy said, “I’m thinking movies and a shirt.”
He wound up selecting “Fast and Furious 6” and a shirt. But he still had money left so he also picked posters, sunglasses, cookies, a jacket and a coyote caller. Adding the prices up, Green told the youth, “You’re done.”
The boy looked at the full buggy and said, “Hey, this is fun.”
His little brother picked fewer but more expensive items, including an iPod Shuffle, a toy gun and posters.
The younger boy exclaimed, “This is awesome. I’ve never done something like this.”