TUPELO • The North Gloster Walmart was filled with police Thursday morning. The officers weren’t there to arrest shoplifters. They were there to shop with kids.
For the second year, the Tupelo Police Department teamed up with the Tupelo Public School District and the business community to give some students the chance to go on a $300 shopping spree.
Some bought the toys they had been wanting all year. Others bought gifts for their siblings. Some skipped the toys and went for more practical things – clothes.
The students were given a police escort to the store, where they were paired with an officer as a shopping partner.
“All of the officers have kids in the same age range so they are used to shopping with and for kids,” said School Resource Officer Alan Chavers, who organized Shop with a Cop. “I have a 14-year-old daughter. My student is a 12-year-old girl, so I kind of knew what they want.
“She was interested in tablets. I mentioned that my daughter drops her tablet a lot, so she got a cover to help protect it.”
Thomas Street first-grader Joseph O’Callaghan filled his shopping with dragons, dinosaurs and cars. His youthful exuberance made it hard for Maj. Anthony Hill to keep up with how much had been spent.
“I was trying to keep a running total but he’s going too fast,” Hill said.
The principals and counselors at Joyner, Lawhon, Parkway and Thomas Street elementaries selected the eight boys and eight girls for the shopping spree. TPSD communications director Gregg Ellis said officials started working in September to secure sponsors for the event.
Selena Taylor, a kindergarten student at Parkway, was barely into the toy department when she saw a large stuffed unicorn she said she was going to name Katie.
“She is 6 and I have a 7-year-old daughter, so this is definitely in my wheelhouse,” said SRO Tremaine Frison. “I love this. This (event) is something special.”
The employees of Walmart went all out to make the students feel special. There was a throng of employees at the door to greet the children with applause. Individual workers accompanied most of the student-officer pairings to offer assistance.
“All of our associates helped make sure it was a success,” said Walmart’s Haley Parker. “I told everyone to be ready.”
Afterwards, the children and their families were treated to a reception at the Tupelo Police Department.