WATERLOO — Dylan Cook has met some police officers, including one who works at his school.
But on Saturday, the 12-year-old Waterloo boy got up close to a whole bunch of men and women in uniform at Target. That included officer Jody Stratton, who helped him shop for Christmas gifts.
The fifth annual Cops and Kids Christmas shopping event brought them together. A total of 42 Waterloo Police officers were paired with about 40 elementary and middle school-aged children from Waterloo as well as a few students in high school.
“These police officers are awesome,” said Cook. And how does he feel about getting his shopping done with the help of Stratton?
“I think it’s awesome,” he noted. “Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”
They were finding what Cook had written on his list for his parents, sister, stepbrothers and stepsister.
“We have (made) a good dent,” said Stratton. “All their stuff is just needs not wants for the most part, so we’re filling the list.”
Participating children, chosen through the schools with the help of counselors and resource officers, each could spend about $200 on gifts for family members. The children also could get a gift for themselves with the money.
“The event is funded through donors and partnerships with the Waterloo Police Foundation,” said officer David McFarland, chairman of the group. Major donors this year were Farmers State Bank and the Elks Club.
“We initially started, the first year we did it, with 10 kids,” he said, and it’s grown over the years since. The number of children never exceeds the number of volunteering police officers. “We like to have that one-on-one contact.”
Office Matt Wertz said he volunteered because “it’s good for the community” when the police get involved with such efforts. He was shopping with 11-year-old Lacquira Steere who was looking at hats and gloves for her mom, stepdad, brother and four sisters. She had to be careful, though, because occasionally she ended up in the same part of the store as her twin sister, who was shopping with another officer.
Jessica Ayard came armed with a list for her parents, brother and two sisters. But the 9-year-old found her ideas for gifts changing while shopping.
“It’s things that I see, because I’ve never been here before,” she said, except for once with her aunt. Her brother and some sisters were also shopping, and their parents were around to ensure the gifts for each child were appropriate.
Zykarrieon Tate, 9, and officer Nick Weber were buying for the boy’s mom, grandma and great-grandmother.
“We’re going to look at the Chromebooks and see how much they cost,” said Tate.
“We’re going to knock out everything for everyone else and then see what’s left for him,” added Weber.
They had already picked out a 12-piece set of pots and pans for his grandma, Lola Todd, who was accompanying them. Although gifts got wrapped before the shoppers left the store, Todd acknowledged she would know what’s under the tree for her this year.
That’s not how it was going to be for family members who accompanied Marlon White to Target.
“I’m buying everybody a Christmas gift,” said the 12-year-old, including his parents and “a lot” of cousins. Grandpa Dale Tanner brought two of the cousins along for the adventure, but they didn’t expect to see what White picked off the shelves.
“We’ll lag way behind,” said Tanner.