Sumter County sheriff’s deputies, support staff and volunteers helped bring some Christmas cheer Saturday to hundreds of local children and their parents.
The children and their families began arriving before 9 a.m. Saturday for the 11th annual Kids, Cops & Christmas event held at Wal-Mart at Buffalo Ridge Plaza in The Villages.
Sheriff’s volunteer Enid Cristodero registered the youngsters as they arrived and assigned them to a deputy. Each child was given $50 to spend on Christmas gifts. Once the youngsters were paired with a deputy, most made their way directly to the toy section.
Sgt. Joe Katich fitted a set of antlers to his head, turned on the LED lights embedded in the antlers and led children in search for their favorite toys.
The 10-year veteran clearly enjoyed helping the young shoppers.
He said the program gives children an opportunity to interact with the law enforcement officers and helps improve community relations.
Lt L.J. Wynn, a 26-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, was helping 14-year-old Jaiden Walker and Jaiden’s grandmother, Joyce Brown, with the shopping experience. The Navy veteran has helped with the Cops, Kids & Christmas program for six years and clearly loves interacting with the children as they shop for themselves and their families.
The Wal-Mart in Bushnell was also the scene of a Kids, Cops & Christmas shopping excursion that afternoon where more than 200 children benefited from the program.
Numerous organizations help fund Kids, Cops & Christmas through donations and fundraisers.