ST. GEORGE — Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, troopers, rangers and other first responders from all over the county will escort hundreds of lucky kids to three different Wal-Mart stores to go Christmas shopping for the annual Shop with a Cop event on Saturday morning.

The Desert Rodders Car Club presents the St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley is at the police department when a check was presented by the Desert Rodders Car Club for the annual Shop with a Cop event that will be held on Saturday, St. George, Utah, Dec. 3, 2023 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The Shop with a Cop program matches children from low-income families with local law enforcement to shop for holiday gifts and clothing, which is paid for by community donations. The program not only provides children with gifts and needed items, but also provides officers with the opportunity to build a positive relationship with the children.

The annual shopping spree typically starts with hundreds of law enforcement officers, employees and several hundred youth that begin their day with a breakfast, which serves not only to fuel the holiday shoppers, but also provides an opportunity for both to get acquainted.

The St. George trio of agencies

In St. George, more than 150 children will team up with officers from the St. George Police Department, Santa Clara-Ivins Police and officers with the Utah Technical University Police Department, where the group will meet up at the Gardner Student Center at Utah Tech University for a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning.

From there, the officers and their junior shopping partners will load up in patrol units for the trek to the Bloomington Walmart, riding “cherries and berries” all the way for a morning of holiday shopping.

The Desert Rodders has supported the Shop with a Cop event every year, and this year, the group will not only be busy working as gift wrappers, but they also donated more than $9,000 on Monday when the group hand-delivered a check to St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley, who oversees the holiday program – as she has done for nearly a decade.

The funds were collected during the 13th annual Rick Massey Memorial Car Guys Care Toys for Tots car show that was held last weekend and was a raving success. The show was recently named in honor of longtime Toys For Tots coordinator Rick Massey, who died three years ago. The event was held in the parking lot of Beau’s Carquest Auto Parts located at 920 North 2100 West in St. George, where residents strolled among a sterling collection of classic automobiles assembled for the fundraising and toy collection event for Toys For Tots.

Car Guys Care organizer, Shane Dastrup told St. George News during the event that this was the car show’s 13th year, and the third year the event has been held at Beau’s Carquest Auto Parts, and while last year’s event hauled in a record $6,300 and 700 toys, they had hoped this year they would surpass those numbers – and as it turns out – they did.

Additionally, the group of car lovers also presented a check to Pam Curtis Toys For Tots coordinator for more than $2,400, with a big “thank you” to everyone who helped make the fundraising efforts possible.

The Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department also had a successful year in terms of fundraising for the program, said Lt. Jaron Studley, who told St. George News those efforts included the “Rev’d up 4 Rotary” car show that was held at Tuacahn last month that brought in thousands of dollars, in addition to another car show that was held in the parking lot of the O’Reilly Auto Parts store on Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara that was also sponsored by the Desert Rodders at the end of September.

2021 file photo for illustrative purposes only of officers in Washington City helping their junior partners at Walmart during annual Shop With a Cop event, Washington City, Utah, Dec. 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Washington City Police Department, St. George News

Washington City and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office join forces

Officers with the Washington City Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s deputies have joined forces and will meet at the Washington Fields Intermediate School at 7 a.m. for a hot breakfast — provided courtesy of the school’s kitchen staff, Washington City Police Lt. Kory Klotz told St. George News.

From there, officers will partner up with their charges for the drive to the Washington City Walmart for a morning of holiday shopping. Klotz said the shopping spree is a family event that often includes the officers’ wives and children that come together to help with the shopping and gift wrapping and so on.

“It’s also a way for the family to get into the spirit of giving for the holidays,” Klotz said.

He went on to say that fundraising efforts this year have garnered more than $8,500 that will be used to purchase gift cards that will be presented to the children on Saturday.

The event also brings the community together in a common cause that not only benefits the child, but it also helps to build relationships between law enforcement and the citizens they serve, Klotz added.

Agencies along the eastern block 

Officers in Hurricane, LaVerkin and the Colorado City-Hildale City Police Department, along with Sprindale Department of Public Safety, the Bureau of Land Management and Zion National Park rangers have formed a coalition to bring nearly 60 children Christmas joy this year, Hurricane Police Officer Dan Raddatz told St. George News.

2021 file photo for illustrative purposes only of officers, agents, troopers and rangers at Walmart during annual Shop With a Cop event, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Hurricane Police Department, St. George News

The group will meet at Hurricane High School at 7 a.m. this Saturday for a continental breakfast of pastries, muffins and juice before the officers partner up with their underlings to head over to the Hurricane Walmart for a morning of holiday shopping.

Raddatz went on to say the annual event would not be possible without the generosity of the local community and the business partners that contribute every year — which is what enables the various agencies to provide each child with a gift card to purchase the items on their list.

Shop with a Cop in Iron County

The Shop with a Cop event gets an early start with a breakfast served at Canyon View High School at 6 a.m. on Saturday, after which, the caravan of children are loaded into police units for the ride to the Walmart Supercenter on Main Street.

Delivering holiday cheer to children south of the Utah border  

Every December, Mesquite Police Officers in Nevada and neighboring law enforcement agencies participate “in this incredible tradition,” Sgt. Wyatt Oliver said in an email to St. George News, where children are preselected by the schools based on their needs and circumstances to participate in the event.

The festivities begin when the officer picks the child up at the school for a holiday shopping spree, which allows the youngster to enjoy some one-on-one time with their officer as they shop for gifts for themselves and their family.

After leaving the store, the Mesquite Elks Lodge hosts a complimentary luncheon for the pair where the child and their law enforcement partner can enjoy a lunch, dessert, and of course, a photo with Mr. and Mrs. Claus – as they have done so graciously every year.

In addition to Virgin Valley Elementary and JL Bowler Elementary Schools, the Mesquite Police Department, “with the help of our generous community donations,” Oliver stated, is also providing holiday cheer to the needy students at Beaver Dam Elementary School in Littlefield, Arizona.

Without community partners and citizens scattered throughout the Southern Utah region, there would be no shopping trips for these less fortunate children, and 100% of the funds raised for Shop with a Cop are spent on the children and the program is successful through donations from businesses and citizens.

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