ARLINGTON – Christmas came early for Sabrina Reynolds of Arlington and her two children, Dedrick and Ellie, as they stuffed their carts with toys and games inside the Arlington Walmart, chatting with their new friend, Lake Stevens police officer Chris Lyons, who walked with them.
“They already shopped, and they’re having so much fun,” said a grateful Reynolds, whose kids were invited to shop with a cop on a spree that came to about $100 per child.
As much as the money was a miracle at this time of year where the need is great for families, Reynolds saw other lessons in play beyond the value of a dollar.
“I like that the kids are involved, and that they get to be involved with law enforcement,” she said.
Sgt. Rory Bolter, vice president of the Arlington Police Officers Association, said it had been several years since the department organized a shopping with police event. However, Walmart officials called a couple of weeks ago eager to restart the program.
Suddenly, an event planned for 30 children grew over three sizes larger when Walmart raised their donation to $11,000 to help out 110 kids in need.
That was going to take a lot more law enforcement, Bolter said. And like officers trained and fraternal like they are, they mobilized.
By shopping day, Arlington police and their volunteers were joined by Arlington firefighters, ACRC, Lake Stevens Police, Snohomish County and Island County Sheriff’s offices, Stillaguamish Tribal Police, Washington State Patrol, North County Fire, Getchell Fire District, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Navy.
For Peggy Ray and the Arlington Community Resource Center, this was their first time partnering with police to pull off the event. They were asked to pre-select the kids and families who would fill their carts with toys and games.
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” she said, while directing traffic into the Home and Garden checkout area in Walmart, and coordinating photos for kids to pose with Santa and the officer who accompanied them on their shopping.
Police and the ACRC work closely to help families in need in the north county area, and offer support to the homeless connected with the embedded social working program.
“We’re small hinges opening up huge doors,” Ray said.
Bolter, who was joined at the event by his eighth grade daughter, said the event means a lot to him.
“I love the interaction between the kids and the police,” he said.
“Obviously the kids love being with cops, firefighters and soldiers; we love all the help we can get,” he said.
Bolter said public safety sometimes gets shown in a negative light in the media. There’s a benefit to kids and families being able to be out with officers in a non-emergency, more natural environment.
“These kids are so small they still enjoy the ‘cop catching the bad guy’ type of theme,” Bolter. He thanked the public safety and military personnel who helped out with the shopping, and the volunteer support they received from the community and businesses. It couldn’t go to a better cause at a better time.
“There’s this need for just an extra push during the holidays,” Bolter said.
City spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said they’re were just seeing toys being bought.