Jaxon Shoemaker’s smile beamed as he sorted through his Tech Deck finger-sized scooter, Nerf gun, box of Pringles, and an assortment of goodies, toys, and games.
Shoemaker was one of 15 children attending Shop With a Cop Saturday, an annual tradition set up by the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado State Patrol.
Law enforcement agencies are working with Integrated Community and Routt County schools to identify children who may need a helping hand while on vacation.
Sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Adrian said this year’s event brought together more children and law enforcement officers than any in its eight-year history.
Law enforcement agencies are running the event with gift cards donated by Walmart and private donors.
Adrian said the day is steadily increasing each year. About 25 police came to do their shopping with 15 children on Saturday.
“It’s about bridging the gap between the community and law enforcement,” Adrian said. “I think it’s more rewarding for the cops than for the kids.”
Sheriff’s Office Assistant John Daschle stood next to Shoemaker as the two cruised the Steamboat Springs Walmart. Shoemaker’s eyes scanned the aisles for toys, tech, and snacks, while Daschle followed closely and kept track of how much money Shoemaker had left.
Shoemaker’s family were two doors down from the trailers that caught fire at Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park earlier this year. While his family’s trailer was not in direct fire, they were left without power for several months, along with 14 other trailers on the south side of the park.
After several months of living without electricity, Shoemaker was delighted to buy gifts for himself and his family.
Amie Shoemaker, Jaxon’s mother, shared how the family had a tumultuous year and how the event brought smiling faces and a sense of peace to her three children, all students of Sleeping Giant School.
“It’s just nice with everything that is going on in the world,” Amie said.
Amie’s father was a police officer for several years, and she hopes shopping with a police officer will teach her children to trust law enforcement and not be afraid to call them when necessary.
“It’s important for them to see that the police are people they can trust,” Amie said. “When you go shopping with a cop, you think of it as someone watching over you. “
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Park ranger Kirsten Miller with 5-year-old Caleb Escarte also saw the event as a way for kids to build a strong relationship with law enforcement.
“It’s a family interaction that builds a relationship between cops and kids,” Miller said. “It’s just nice for all of us.”
Unlike some of the other kids, Escarte carefully examined each aisle before picking up a toy and placing it in the cart. It’s a remarkable skill for a 5-year-old, Miller noted.
“We’re very analytical here,” Miller joked as Escarte looked at several sets of Hotwheels ramps and slowly pondered which one to choose.
Adrian hopes to continue the event each year, with recommendations for children in the integrated community and county schools.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.