HARLINGEN — The holidays are a time of festivities and cheer, but also of giving back.
That’s what the Harlingen Police Department and other law enforcement agencies did this week.
The fifth annual Shop with a Cop event started at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with school buses lining up, getting ready to begin the day. In all, 85 fifth-grade students from 17 elementary schools had been nominated by the Harlingen school district and were given a $100 gift card to spend on whatever they wanted to choose at Target.
Cheerleaders from Harlingen South and Harlingen High School cheered with their pom-poms as boys and girls entered Target alongside a law enforcement officer — their partner for the day.
A few of them looked for something for themselves while others searched for the perfect gift for their parents and siblings.
Big smiles and full carts were seen as the children chose what to buy for Christmas.
Kylie Polina, 10, from Zavala Elementary School, picked a bucket of slime for herself and a stuffed unicorn, but she looked for gifts for others, too.
“The crayons and Swedish fish are for my sister. The gingerbread train is for me and my sister so we can decorate it,” Kylie said.
“I am thankful for the officers and what they are doing for me and others. I feel great and happy.”
Shop with a Cop has grown to include more participants since its start, which began with about 30 students.
According to Police Chief Michael Kester, it is a collaboration between the police department and the community. Business owners as well as others give donations to sponsor the gift cards.
In attendance was also Mayor Chris Boswell who said it is always sweet and surprising a few children spend the money on their family.
“I have attended every year and it is a great event, especially during the time of giving,” he said.
“It is always great to see how many of these children are not only buying gifts for them but for their families. It is a great tradition of the community to come together.”
According to Police Commander David Osborne, besides the police department participating, other law enforcement officials helped out including state troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, federal wildlife officers, Cameron County Constables from Precinct 5 and the Rio Hondo Police Department.
Students participating also got to enjoy an afternoon of bowling and pizza.
Osborne was paired up with Joann Muniz, 11, from Bonham Elementary School.
Joann got a raccoon stuffed animal and a sketchbook as well as pencils. But she also got her father a jacket and shoes.
“I wanted to give stuff to my dad because I love him and he does so much for us” she said.