Anyone in or around the downtown Ardmore area on Monday and Tuesday may be surprised by the convoy of police vehicles — full lights and sirens — making their way toward Commerce Street.
Despite the lights and sirens, there is no cause for alarm, but a call for holiday cheer as the annual Shop with Cops event gets underway. Each year — for the last 30 years — law enforcement personnel in Ardmore have answered the call of hundreds of less fortunate area children in an effort to provide a Merry Christmas for those involved.
This year’s event is expected to have an additional boost with the program joining forces with the Heroes with Hope of Southern Oklahoma Foundation.
“They actually take the kids from the station and let them ride in the cars, they get to play with the lights and the radio and even talk to the other children on the radios,” Melissa Woolly, executive director for Heroes with Hope of Southern Oklahoma Foundation, said. “The kids are then taken to Wal-Mart and allowed to get something they need and something they want.”
Woolly said items of need often include shoes, coats and clothing, but occasionally includes bedding and other necessities. The items of need are determined through interviews with the parents and children, but the decision on what toy they get falls squarely on the child.
Heroes with Hope took up the cause earlier this year in an effort to expand the program’s reach throughout the county and into other areas of need.
The final tally on the number of children who will spend Monday and Tuesday shopping with cops is still undetermined. Woolly said the program was currently reviewing hundreds of applications for the event, with applications including anywhere between 2 to 8 children each.
“The excitement from the kids makes all the continued efforts worthwhile,” Woolly said.
The total amount spent on each child is determined by the amount of donations the program receives prior to the event. Heroes for Hope, a 501c nonprofit, will accept tax-deductible donations year-round for Shop with Cops and for the numerous other programs championed by the foundation.
In his second year participating as the Sheriff of Carter County, Chris Bryant stressed how important it was for his office to continue to advocate for the Shop with Cops program.
“We want to help expand the coverage area and be a key player in the Shop with Cops program along with the City of Ardmore and Ardmore Police Department,” Bryant said. “There are a lot of less fortunate kids out there that don’t have anything and we would like to see every kid who would have a not-so-good Christmas have a good Christmas with this program.”
Currently, the Heroes for Hope’s Shop with Cops event only includes the Ardmore Police Department and the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, though Woolly said the program plans to eventually incorporate all communities and all departments within the county.
Funding for Shops with Cops is provided entirely through donations, with the officers involved also donating their time to participate in the event.
“It’s huge. It has a very positive impact on these kids, it’s a very emotional experience for a lot of the kids and the volunteers. There may be this impression that all these kids want to get is toys, but you end up seeing that these kids aren’t selfish. Often, they are thinking of their brothers and sisters and parents, and sometimes they are picking out clothes. It’s pretty gut-wrenching what these kids are asking for,” Bryant said. “There are a lot of things that we take for granted every day, these kids that are writing these letters, it kinda puts you back in your place.”
Heroes for Hope’s expanded outreach will include bereavement boxes and cuddlecots for area hospitals, mentoring programs for at-risk youth, in-school health education, summer water safety, preschool bicycle safety, meeting school faculty needs on various levels, an annual coat drive and a high school transitioning program along other possible opportunities that may arise.
For questions or to donate call (580) 319-8571 or email Heroeswithhope@outlook.com.