GREENFIELD — Officer Thomas Evans hoisted Serenity Athalone onto his shoulders, sending the 6-year-old’s curly hair bouncing. They maneuvered through the clothing racks, Serenity looking down on everything from above, a bright smile spread wide over her face.
They’d become fast friends that morning, Evans said of Serenity. She’d put on her favorite Christmas dress and a matching red bow. They’d shared breakfast at McDonald’s together, singing Christmas carols as they ate. Then, they headed for Walmart to buy as many toys and new outfits as they could find.
Members of the Greenfield Police Department took about 40 local kids shopping during the weekend — the second of three local law enforcement agencies to take kids in need on a shopping spree through the Greenfield Walmart.
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The Fortville Police Department on Saturday took some 30 kids from the Mt. Vernon school district shopping for clothes and toys. Greenfield’s Cops 4 Kids program — which this year broadened a bit to include Evans, who works for the New Palestine Police Department — took place Sunday morning.
And the charity from law enforcement will continue as the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department will take an additional two dozen kids in need on a shopping spree Dec. 15.
It’s an opportunity, organizers say, to interact with the youngest members of the community in a positive way. So often, they’re tossed into a child’s life during a scary time. But during the holiday season, they can simply focus on bringing joy, on sharing smiles and laughter.
Each agency spends about $300 on each child they help, ensuring the money is divided evenly between wants and needs. This year, Greenfield gave kids $100 to spend on toys and $200 to spend on clothes, shoes and other needs, said Dana Nance, who organizes the Cops 4 Kids program.
Parents or guardians sign up to participate ahead of the event, demonstrating some sort of financial need or hardship in their application. They note things their children need to get them through the year.
It’s not uncommon for items like socks, underwear and shoes to be written there, Greenfield Police Chief Jeff Rasche said. And while it’s heartbreaking to know that children in the community are hurting for those basic needs, it brings the police officers joy knowing they’ve helped in some way.
But on this morning of Christmas shopping, the kids could forget their troubles and just have fun.
Each child is partnered with an officer who they quickly develop a rapport with. And just as Evans and his shopper, Serenity, became fast friends, many other kids walked into the store with an officer but left with a buddy.
Detective Brian Hartman and Lt. J.D. Fortner, for example, drew smiles from their new friends, 2-year-old Addison Hilligoss and 3-year-old Landon Gaston, by playing peek-a-boo with oversized masks of Christmas characters.
This year’s Cops 4 Kids program was highlighted by notable generosity from the community, Rasche said. The department easily raised about $25,000 through a series of fundraisers, like a trivia night and a dine-in event at a local restaurant, and earned a few large donations from local businesses.
Indiana Automotive Fasteners recently gave the department a check for $12,000, Rasche said. And that money went a long way in helping local kids.