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Keeping the Christmas Spirit alive at Shop With A Cop in Idaho Falls

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Bonneville County Deputy Zach Skidmore and 6-year-old Deangeus

IDAHO FALLS — Each of the 36 youngsters at Saturday’s Shop With A Cop in Bonneville County has had an experience with law enforcement before and it may not have been a pleasant one.

The goal of the annual Christmas event is to make sure these children know they don’t have to fear or be angry at law enforcement for the things that have happened in their lives.

“Our event is where we have a group of kids that have been tied to domestic violence or abusive situations or environments and have had past interaction with law enforcement,” Bonneville County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Bryan Lovell said. “So we pair these kids up with officers … and send them in to shop with kids for their families.”

The Shop With A Cop event starts at the Eagles Lodge, where members of the Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Falls Police Department and Idaho State Police gathered with the children to eat a pancake breakfast, provided by the lodge.

Afterward, each of the children got to ride with an officer in a police processional down Hitt Road to the Target in Ammon.

Five-year-old Adan, who was paired up with ISP Trooper Spencer Fowler, said his favorite part of the day was turning the sirens off and on during the processional.

“This is a great opportunity to let the kids know police officers aren’t always the bad guys,” Fowler said. “And it gives kids the opportunity to interact with us in a different way than we do on the streets.”

ISP Trooper Spencer Fowler and 5-year-old Adan

Kirah, 8, was paired with Idaho Falls Police Officer Justin Hegstrom, who’s a Shop With A Cop veteran. Kirah thought talking to the other kids on the radio was the most fun part of the morning.

“I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now,” Hegstrom said. “It helps me keep the Christmas Spirit alive, and I love seeing how much fun these kids have.”

Idaho Falls Police Officer Justin Hegstrom and 8-year-old Kirah

After choosing a gift for themselves, and members of their immediate family, the children received help wrapping gifts from the Idaho Falls Civitans and got to sit down and visit with Santa Claus, who arrived in a limousine this year.

Lovell said all of the officers who participated did so as volunteers, and that each year the event receives a great deal of volunteer and financial help from groups and businesses in the area.

For Fowler, Shop With A Cop is an event to look forward to each year.

“My kids are mostly grown,” Fowler said. “So it’s great to hang out with these kids, it’s a great program and it’s a big deal to me.”

ISP Trooper Alexandra Larrea and Dagan, 11

Deputy Brandon McIntire and Chad, 6, pose with Santa