RICHMOND - There was a heavy police presence at the Richmond Walmart Saturday morning, with uniformed Kentucky State Police Troopers scouring departments throughout the store.
No, it wasn't in response to shoplifters, parking-lot bandits or an insurrection.This, far more benevolent police response, was for the annual "Shop With a Trooper" program, where troopers and a host of volunteers, ranging from civilians who want to give a hand, to non-uniformed personnel, work to give deserving area youngsters an opportunity to have a good Christmas.
Trooper First Class Toby Coyle, who coordinated the local program for the seventh year, said 74 area children between the ages of 5 and 15, were taken shopping with the troopers, while an additional 20 youngsters, age 5 and under, too young to shop, were presented with pre-wrapped goody boxes in Richmond, while a simultaneous event serving 64 kids was being conducted at the Walmart in Stanford.
The youthful shoppers were allotted $100 each to spend on toys, clothing and other merchandise. The children in the program, from Madison and surrounding counties, were referred by schools, social-service agencies, neighbors and parents for the program that provides the kind of Christmas they might not have if not for the program.
It is funded by annual contributions from businesses and individuals. (The Kiwanis Club of Richmond contributed $500 toward the "Shop with a Trooper" program.)
"With this program, 100 percent of the funds donated go to the kids, and I want to thank all those who made contributions," said Coyle, a Berea resident.
State Police Post 7, which coordinated the event, serves 11 Kentucky counties. State police posts from throughout the commonwealth participate in the popular annual program.
"We have a host of volunteers, including state police, civilian employees, alumni of the civilian State Police Academy, retirees, troopers' families, citizen volunteers and employees of other agencies that work with the state police," said Captain Lisa Rudzinski, commander of the local State Police post.
"This is one of the ways the Kentucky State Police have of giving back to the community, and as much as the children enjoy it, I can promise you we enjoy it a hundred times more," said Rudzinski.
While the children are invited to get things for themselves for Christmas, she said they often opt to buy some gifts for other family members, as they happily accompany cart-pushing troopers through the various departments of the store.
"There are a lot of families in need. We deal with those families, and it's a good feeling to be able to give back," said Trooper Charles Brandenburg, a former Richmond Police officer, who is new to the KSP and was participating in the event for the first time.
Walmart employees also get happily involved in the program, with the store providing snacks of doughnuts, juice and candy canes. Each child also gets a picture with Santa Claus.
"This is like my favorite event of the year," beamed assistant store manager B.J. Cornelius.
"It's a blast," echoed store manager Randy Bowling, as he watched the happy shoppers darting from one department to the other.
A young lady of 14 named Malia, from Beattyville, was joyfully
filling her cart with clothing, as 14-year-old girls are wont
to do, while 8-year-old Leamber of Estill County was collecting
a Barbie, some games and a Zhu-Fari pet. Trenton, 12, of Berea,
chose clothing, cologne and a game, while Harold, 7, of McKee,
was making his dollars stretch by choosing smaller, less expensive
toys, along with a few clothing items.
Following the shopping spree, the children were treated to lunch at the local Chick-fil-A.
While all the shopping was going on, troopers were also busy conducting a food drive at the local Kroger to benefit local area families.
Anyone can donate to the "Shop With A Trooper" program all year round by contacting any Kentucky State Police post or by contacting a local trooper.
Richmond Register Story By Frank Kourt
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