In Lacey, presents aren’t always delivered under a Christmas tree.
They’re not always bought by mom, dad, grandma and grandpa.
For some kids, they’re purchased with the help of a uniformed police officer, driving a patrol car instead of a sleigh.
For the ninth year, the Lacey Police Department hosted Shop with a Cop. Ten children from the Lacey Boys & Girls Club teamed up with officers, who helped them pick out gifts from the Lacey Walmart, Northwest Harley-Davidson, and Olympic Cards and Comics.
Detective Miguel Stansberry, the event organizer, greeted the kids Friday morning at the police station and paired them with officers. They climbed into the patrol cars and drove down with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
“This is my favorite part,” Stansberry said. “The kids get to play with the sirens, and when they see the cars pulling to the side of the road, they think it’s all for them.”
When the procession arrived at Walmart, employees wheeled out pallets loaded with toys — Barbie dolls, remote-controlled helicopters, puzzles — and let the children choose whatever they wanted.
When the pallets were empty, the store manager stepped forward and handed Stansberry $300 for the children to buy whatever they wanted.
Caleb Campbell, 9, went in search of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys to buy with his $30. After examining a few action figures, he settled on a Ninja Turtles DVD.
“I think that’s probably my favorite thing I got,” Caleb said. “I really like Ninja Turtles.”
His chaperone, officer Rich Broeker, said he’s participated in Shop with a Cop several times, and that the program is almost as much fun for the officers as it is for the kids.
“It’s a great way to interact with the community, and it’s a great cause,” Broeker said. “We all love it.”
Stansberry said many of the officers come in on their days off to participate, and many show up after working the graveyard shift.
Each year, the department also has an auction at its holiday party. This year, it collected $900: $500 for the Lacey Boys and Girls Club and $400 for the kids to spend.
After spending all of their Walmart money, the children climbed back into the patrol cars and headed to Northwest Harley-Davidson, where they took a tour of the service department and posed for photos on a motorcycle. Store employees passed out goody bags containing toy motorcycles.
“It’s always so much fun to have the kids here,” store co-owner Joe Deck said. “They cause such a splash when they walk in.”
At Olympic Cards and Comics, the shoppers received another $65 to purchase stuffed animals, games and books. Store owner Gabi Trautmann then invited them upstairs for a cup of hot chocolate and surprised them with personalized stockings.
This is the first time the comic store has participated in the event, and Trautmann said she’ll gladly sign up for next year.
“I’ve sent stuff to kids in Centralia and Cosmopolis before during the holidays, but I’ve never had them come to the store,” Trautmann said. “I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
Each child left with a huge bag full of toys. But Lacey Boys and Girls Club manager Shellica Trevino said they’re getting more than just that.
“For a lot of them, this is the first positive interaction with police,” Trevino said. “They’re learning that a lot of them are good guys, and hopefully that sticks with them.”