Alec Rosenberger quickly warmed up to his police escort Tuesday afternoon.
The second grader at St. Paul Lutheran School approached with caution when he was met by Gage County Sgt. Deputy Brandon Schley in the school’s lobby.
The 7-year-old was quiet, until learning he was selected for Shop With a Cop and this deputy was his gateway to a $100 shopping spree at Wal-Mart.
From that point, Alec fired questions at Schley nearly as quickly as the deputy could answer them.
“Do cops still take dogs?” (Yes.)
“Do you get to take a dog?” (No.)
“Do all cops like doughnuts?” (Yes.)
Upon arrival at Wal-Mart, Alec was met with a handful of other children, each with a deputy escort wearing a holiday hat.
Shop with a Cop has been held for seven years, according to Schley.
“We’ve done this for seven years and this is my fourth year being in charge of it,” he said. “Some parents have them make a list up, some kids don’t even know we’re coming.”
The concept of Shop with a Cop is simple.
About 10-12 children who need a little extra holiday cheer are selected from nominations. From there, the deputies take them shopping Tuesday and Wednesday for anything they want to buy totaling $100.
In Alec’s case, he immediately went for the electronics department.
“I don’t push the cart that much, so I don’t know where to go,” he explained to Schley while searching for the video game that topped his list this holiday season.
Alec eventually found the game he was looking for, the Skylanders Starter Pack, though the game was only on the shelf for XBox, and would be incompatible with his Play Station.
The search continued.
When hope was nearly lost, a trio of Wal-Mart workers approached the wide-eyed seven year old with a much larger box than he expected.
Since the starter pack of the game was sold out, the store upgraded his selection to the “Super Bundle Pack,” which exceeded the $100 mark by itself, accompanied by a note knocking down the price so Alec could buy more items.
Generosity for the program is common – a stranger handed the deputy $150 on the spot when she learned what the Sheriff's Department was doing for kids – and is also what keeps Shop with a Cop going.
“Most people give a few dollars here or there and hand us $10 or $20 in the store,” said Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson. “I try to do it that way since everybody gets hounded for money around the holidays. This way we sustain ourselves and as long as the money lasts, we’re going to keep doing it.”
Alec’s tab had room to add another video game, The Walking Dead, which he plans to give as a gift this holiday season.
From there, $10 remained. He carefully examined the boxes of LEGOs, scoffed when Schley suggested adding a Barbie to the cart, and eagerly scanned the toy aisles.
Eventually, a remote-controlled fart machine caught his attention.
Naturally, Alec tested the machine by pressing the demo button, each round accompanied by a giggle. After a few tries, the novelty wore off.
“Yeah, I think I’m just going to save my $10,” he said.
While Schley explained Alec could buy more gifts, the lucky child said he wanted to put the $10 in the bank.
Though the fart machine was tempting.