By Gregory Woods firstname.lastname@example.org
NORTH CHARLESTON, S. C. -- Sirens blared as dozens of police cars drove down Dorchester Road Saturday morning. The officers weren't on a mission to chase a bad guy; they were taking more than 60 North Charleston children Christmas shopping.
The day is thanks to Kids & Cops, a program started last year by the North Charleston Police Department. The program allows the officers and North Charleston schools to work together to identify families who experience difficult times during the holiday season.
"There are a lot of people who are less fortunate," said Officer Jason Decorte. "That's where we step in and do our part to give back to the community."
Decorte is one of 62 officers who participated. He spent the entire day with 6-year-old Shawn Brown, a Goodwin Elementary student.
Aisle by aisle, they checked every toy at the Walmart store on Tanger Outlet Boulevard, to find gifts for Brown and his family. It was time not only for shopping, but for bonding.
"Shawn is so awesome," said Decorte. "To see what his likes are, his dislikes are, and the things that make him happy is what this is all about."
Each child was given a $150 gift card. Walmart donated $2,500 and local businesses donated the rest.
The community effort to provide a special day for North Charleston children not only helps families in need, it also helps the police department to build stronger relationships with the people they serve.
"We want children to understand we are there to help them, not to hurt them" said Decorte. "[We want] to change the opinion that the public has of the police and to better the relationship we have in the community."
After shopping the day ended with lunch provided by Chick-fil-A at Burns Elementary.
Kids like Shawn wrapped the gifts they pick out not only for themselves but their families, too.
"I got my sister a Barbie, my brother a football, my mom some gloves, and my dad a hat," said Shawn, the youngest of three siblings.