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Cops shop with kids in need at Cumming Walmart
Annual shopping event brings police, children together
Cops-and-Kids-4 WEB
School social workers work with the FOP prior to the event, identifying families who need assistance during the holiday season.

CUMMING -- White streamers poked out from the sides of the handlebars, the bicycle’s front tire spinning in the air.

The pink bike, which had been carefully placed in the Walmart shopping cart, stood out in the crowd of pre-teen boys, all of whom were huddled around the blue and black bicycles.

Glancing at the price of her new toy, a little girl calculated how much money she had left: just less than $50.

Forsyth County deputies in tow, she pushed her cart through the gaggle of boys to find the next item on her list.

Law enforcement officers, parents and children filled Walmart’s aisles Tuesday evening at the 21st annual Cops and Kids shopping event, which is put on yearly by the Sgt. D.P. Land Memorial Lodge No. 82 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

Held at the store’s Market Place Boulevard location in Cumming, the event pairs children enrolled in Forsyth County School from low-income families with officers from across metro Atlanta who spend up to $100 on each child.

The night’s goal: to send the kids home with new holiday toys and bright smiles and to take stress away from parents who may not be able to otherwise afford gifts.

Brookhaven Police Department Lt. Eric Silveus, a spokesman for the event, said officers from Cumming, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Johns Creek, Fulton County, Forsyth County, Georgia Highway Patrol, Georgia Department of Pardons and Paroles and Georgia State Patrol, among others, attended.

“This is a great way to bridge the gap between law enforcement and children within the community and let them see us in a different light,” Silveus said. “A lot of times when we respond to calls, we’re responding to negative situations within their lives, and this is a great way to be a part of their Christmas and show them there’s definitely a different side to law enforcement than just what they may have seen in their lives.”

Forsyth County Schools social workers work with the FOP prior to the event, identifying families who need assistance during the holiday season.

“The [social workers] get in touch with the families and have them fill out an application so [we know] they are definitely in need and need support,” Silveus said. “Once the application is processed, it comes to us, and every year, it seems like the program gets bigger and bigger.”

One of this year’s families included Terri Murkala and her three grandsons, Kaden, Iszak and Michael.

They spent the evening with Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office deputy Chris Barrett and Cumming Police Department Deputy Chief Aletha Barrett, who were all smiles around the boys.

“This is what I’ll say about Kaden,” Chris Barrett said. “He wouldn’t shop until his little brothers went first.”

Murkala said she was thankful her family was chosen for the program.

“We’ve not had such a good year; my husband’s been very sick,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to participate in.”

The boys, too, said they enjoyed the event.

“What I like about it is you get $100 and spend it on stuff that you want for Christmas,” 10-year-old Kaden said.

Some of that stuff included video games, Nerf guns and helping his younger brothers pick out their toys.

“This is something we really enjoy,” Aletha said. “They get to see us in a different way.”

Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy Allen Frampton said his favorite part of the event is helping children.

“Some people have fallen on hard times and you don’t want the kids to suffer for that,” he said. “If [we] can help, [we] do.”