An estimated 200 officers will staff the Cops for Kids program which gives underprivileged children the opportunity to go shopping at Walmart with an officer and choose gifts they would like to receive, said Lt. Tracy Parker, who heads up Cops for Kids.
Once the children have chosen their presents the officers take them to the register for purchase — at up to $150 each, she said.
The program, which began in 1997, raises money throughout the year to give Paulding County children this opportunity.
“I was with the first group, and I’ve done it ever since,” Parker said.
Cops for Kids will use about $40,000 this year to provide the gifts.
Parker said the event started out with only 25 children in 1997 and has grown to average 250 youth. Each year the sheriff’s office sets a target number of children they can serve, but they always seem to go over, Parker said.
Walmart on Marietta Highway hosts the event. The families will meet at 6:30 a.m. in the garden center, where Walmart sets up a place for the parents to relax while the children shop.
She said Walmart helps make the day special for the families.
The sheriff’s office brings in officers from the Dallas and Hiram police departments as well. This way the children get to interact with all the different officers they could come in contact with, Parker said.
“The officers go above and beyond to help the kids,” she said.
Officers on duty try to come by to help if time allows, but off-duty officers make up most of those spending the time with the youth.
“They take time from their personal lives to help a child,” she said.
The event would not be possible without the help of donors. The sheriff’s office hosts an annual golf tournament to raise the majority of the money needed. They also mail letters to businesses to solicit funds.
Between these events and donations given by residents the Cops for Kids is always a success, she said.
Sheriff Gary Gulledge said he wanted to thank those who donated.
“It is just not Christmas in my family until we have bought presents for the kids,” he said.