Vail Stewart Rumley | Washington Daily News
What’s come to be a Washington tradition of giving has expanded to reach more children during the holiday season.
Police officers, firefighter, and local celebrities gathered Thursday to take a group of children Christmas shopping for Washington Police and Fire Services’ annual event, Shop with a Safety Officer. This year, 40 children went on a $150 per child shopping spree at Wal-Mart in Washington. It’s over double the number of children from previous years and grew from the police involvement with special needs activities organization ExCEL.
“Over summer, we got to become more active in what they’re doing. … Those kids are just great. They’re just so excited about life; they’re so appreciative. It just really makes you feel good because they give you so much love,” said Kimberly Grimes, community outreach coordinator with Washington Police and Fire Services. “So we adopted all the kids this year, that’s why we have so many and we were able to get donations. A lot of organizations stepped in to help us this year.”
Those included businesses like Dream Providers, Woolard Construction and Wal-Mart, clubs like Washington (noon) Rotary and the Beaufort County Police Activities League, private donations from the Christi, Hardt and Howell families, in addition to retired NFL wide receiver Terrance Copper, who has sponsored the event since its inception.
Grimes said their generosity allowed organizers to extend invitations to several children whose families are struggling financially this year, in addition to the ExCEL children.
Escorted by Copper and European-league pro-basketballer Ralph Biggs — both natives of Washington — local law enforcement, probation officers and fire personnel, the children were in and out of the store in under an hour. According to Grimes, many of those escorts gave up part of their days off to help the children navigate Wal-Mart’s toy aisles and out pick gifts.
For Wal-Mart manager David Langley, the event may have been his first, but he’s committed to its continuation.
“This tradition needs to be carried on year in and year out,” Langley said. “It’s a wonderful display.”
Langley grew up in Washington and recently made his way back to town via the Wal-Mart management position. He said one of the reasons Shop with a Safety Officer is special is because of the participation of role models.
“Kids have to have someone to look up to in this community. … Our kids love the uniforms,” he laughed.
The Beaufort County Police Activities League (BCPAL) is now the Inner Banks STEM Center.