The REACH Foundation’s Annual Shop With A Cop Returns Shop With A Cop
Quoron Walker, Staff Writer
Santa will be getting help from law enforcement and the REACH Foundation this holiday season.
The nonprofit organization’s fourth annual Shop With A Cop program is back this December.
At risk youth from local service agencies, ages 5–18, are chosen to participate by the REACH Foundation and will be paired with officers as they shop for gifts at a local Target store for themselves, family members, and a child from the community where the officer serves.
“This is a unique one-on-one program for kids to connect with police officers and the key is to create relationships and even mend bonds,” Event Coordinator Kelly Stuper said.
The REACH Foundation partnered with Target to form the program in 2013 and has added a new Target location each year, Stuper said.
This year’s Shop With A Cop will be held in Manchester, Enfield, Southington, and Milford.
Each evening will kick off with a meet and greet at 4 p.m. Officers and children will be paired and get acquainted over dinner and entertainment. After dinner, a police procession - with flashing lights - will lead the crowd to the participating Target store in the area.
More than 30 police departments, including the Connecticut State Police, will participate and more than 500 kids will benefit this year, Stuper said.
The two partners will then begin their personal shopping experience. The evening will end with pictures of the shopping partners with Santa and REACH co-founder Mark Wilson.
Children are not the only ones that benefit, Stuper said.
“It’s equally as important to the officers to reach out and touch a child in need,” she said. “It’s such a gift for them. The police get just as excited as the kids.”
The participants will hopefully gain a new a friend that from the program, as well.
“Kids learn about police and learn that an officer can be a resource for advice, provide help with homework, or when they need a friend,” Stuper said.
She added the officers will get the chance to see the children in a different light, as well.
“They will see that even though [the kids] come from rough neighborhoods, they still have a spark in their eyes and there is still an opportunity for them to reach these kids,” Stuper said.
Stuper said that she will always be grateful for Target’s role in the program and especially for the efforts of Megan Lavelle, store team leader of Target, who spearheaded Target’s involvement the program.
Sponsors include Mike Connolly Photography, Crazy Bruce’s Liquors, DATTCO, The Petit Family Foundation, Dave & Busters of Manchester, Asnuntuck Community College, Outback Steakhouse of Enfield, Crystal Bees of Southington, AMF Bowling of Milford, and Minute Man Press of Bristol, and Target.
The Manchester program will be Dec. 6, Enfield Dec. 8, Southington Dec. 13, and Milford, Dec. 15.
Learn more about the REACH Foundation at www.thereachfoundation.org.