“It’s an awesome opportunity,” said Donna Weaver, who was at the event with her 4-year-old granddaughter, Riley Weaver.
The benefit helped Weaver and 41 other local children in the area purchase gifts and clothing for the holidays.
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Community Policing Sgt. Valerie Weiss said it was made possible by donations from Walmart, Pepsi Corp., Grand Haven Area Public Schools, Spring Lake Public Schools and the Command Association of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.
“It’s really been a great partnership with the community, the school and the sheriff’s office,” Weiss said.
Donna Weaver said Riley’s father is a U.S. Marine stationed in Jacksonville, N.C., so she is staying with her. Weaver said she found out about the shopping opportunity through the local school district.
“The school called us because she is doing a scholarship program with preschool,” Weaver said. “So they called us and let us know this was happening.”
Riley said she was having a good time with the event and was looking for presents for both of her parents.
Other families said they were enjoying the shopping program at the Grand Haven Township store.
“We think this is a really awesome program,” said Janet Lamanna, who was at the event with her grandchildren. “I think it’s a lifelong stepping stone for little kids this age on up to look up to police officers.”
Walmart Store Manager Paula Gue said the event was a positive experience for her and the local community involved in making it happen.
“It’s great for the kids to be able to shop with their families and be able to give gifts,” she said.
Gue said the store loves doing events like this for the community and children.
Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema also said that the event was “exceptional” for his staff.
“This is really worthwhile when our staff can come out and involve themselves with kids in an event like this,” he said.
According to Rosema, the event is growing every year — in both the number of children and Sheriff’s Department participating in it.
“Every year, it gets just a little bit bigger and more of our staff come out,” he said.
Weiss added that everyone involved gets some enjoyment out of the annual event.
“It’s not just the kids — it’s the employees here, its our deputies and its the kids,” Weiss said. “I think altogether it’s just a great opportunity to help.”
Weiss also said it gives younger children the ability to see law enforcement officials in a positive manner.
“We want them to see us in a positive light, and they know they can come to us if something is wrong,” she said.