YMCA’s ‘Shop with a Cop’ event adapts with a new structure


 In a twist on a holiday tradition, the YMCA recently hosted its annual event, “Connecting Kids and Cops,” a transformation of the well-known “Shop with a Cop” initiative. This unique event not only spread holiday cheer but also fostered positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the community’s youngest members, while supplying Christmas gifts to families in the community.

“Unlike previous years when cops and kids were at Walmart together, this year’s event took on a different structure,” Meredith Shuler, YMCA child care director, said. “The officers stayed back at the YMCA, engaging in activities that aimed to build trust and relationships with the kids, while parents were shuttled in the YMCA bus to Walmart to shop. After shopping, parents were brought back to wrap their gifts.”

Formerly known as “Shop with a Cop,” where police officers accompanied children on a festive shopping spree, the revamped event recognized the importance of community connections beyond the holiday season. The YMCA orchestrated an array of activities, including games, arts and crafts, and even watching the Christmas parade on Polk Street.

“This change in format provided a platform for children and officers to interact in a relaxed setting, fostering positive connections. In the past I think we put the police officers and the families in an awkward position,” Kyle Goff, YMCA CEO, said.  “Also, this allowed the parents to have more time and then come back to the YMCA to wrap the gifts and have them under the tree on Christmas morning.”

The success of this year’s “Connecting Kids and Cops” event, with its altered structure, would not be possible without several partners.

“Huge thanks to the Sparta Police Department,” Shuler said. “I think the officers had more fun than the kids. They were such a pleasure to work with, and we appreciate Chief Dunn’s support.” 

“This program began when my dad, Doug Goff, was chief of police,” Kyle Goff said. “So obviously, the partnership was easy to initiate. Working with our new chief police, Nick Dunn, since my dad‘s retirement has been smooth. We appreciate his willingness to keep this program in place for years to come. I also want people to know that the funds for this event come from the Blue Light Ride, which is held in the summer each year and is organized by Marty McFly. Marty is really the catalyst of the entire program.”     


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