Shopping with a cop

Page's 'Shop with a Cop and Fireman' treats 100 children with shopping spree

By Krista Allen
Special to the Times

PAGE, Ariz., Dec. 22, 2011

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Jasmine Joe, 7, looks for her shoe size at Walmart in Page during the 10th annual Shop with a Cop and Fireman outing. Each child spent $100.

One hundred children embarked on a holiday shopping spree for gifts through the Page Fire Department's year-end "Shop with a Cop and Fireman" program.

The 10th annual outing started just before 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17. Selected boys and girls from local families stood in line to register. Afterwards, each child received a pin with a ribbon for a meal voucher at Jack in the Box.

While chattering filled the garage bay of the fire station where doughnuts and orange juice were served, Darrell Clitso, originally from Inscription House, Ariz., helped his son Dallan, 9, write a shopping list. Dallan's list included coloring books, a drawing pad, a football, and a skateboard.

Meanwhile, Paramedic Capt. Daniel Sarich helped Joseph Smith, 12, and his brothers, Aaron, 10, Isaac, 9, and Shawn, 6, write their shopping lists amid the jabbering crowd.

Each child was paired with either a firefighter, paramedic, park ranger or police officer by 7:30 a.m.

Ashley June, 10, and her sisters Angela, 8, and Natasha, 5, were paired up with Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Alex Whitehair.

"It's always an honor to do this," Whitehair said. "It's always nice to do something good for the people, especially the little ones. You see the smile on their faces when they get their gifts - it's cool."

Sirens wailed as emergency and public safety vehicles convoyed down Lake Powell Boulevard.

"All right, my man, flip that siren on," Sarich said to Aundrus Tsinnijinnie, 10, who sat on the Medic 11 ambulance's passenger seat.

"Are we playing 'follow the leader,'" Tsinnijinnie asked.

"Yeah, I don't know who's out in front. I think it might be the police chief," Sarich responded.

Fifteen minutes later, the cavalcade arrived at Walmart, just off of U.S. Highway 89.

"What we want to do is spread the wealth as much as we can," Police Capt. Ray Varner, who started the program a decade ago, said.

Throughout the year, the fire department received donations from individuals and local businesses to help sponsor the program.

"A lot of them say, 'I want to sponsor a kid' or 'I want to sponsor two kids,'" Varner said. "So they'll send $100, $200, or whatever."

The largest donation of $5000 is from the Greenhaven Development Corp. Varner said the corporation donates every year.

Each child spent $100 on anything they wanted in Walmart.

"Most of the time the kids head toward the clothes first," said Sarich, who shopped with Tsinnijinnie and his brothers. "I saw a lot of winter clothes, a lot of jackets, some shoes and boots, and a lot of winter clothes.

"Then whatever the popular toy is for the year," he added. "The kids are great. They're surprisingly responsible in choosing what they need, then heading to the toy section."

After shopping, the children were taken across the highway to Jack in the Box to use their ribbon meal voucher.

At the end of the outing, the children were taken back to the public safety building where they wrapped presents until their parents came for them.

Children from ages five to 12 were selected for this year's Shop with a Cop and Fireman program.

"And above 12, sometimes they don't think it's cool to ride in a police car," Varner said.

Even so, toddlers and teenagers can receive gifts too.

"If we have a 13-, 14-, or 15-year-old, and if they don't want to be seen - it's not too cool to be sitting in a police car - we'll just put them on Angel Tree," Varner said. "Angel Tree buys presents for them.

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