Eastern Wake News

Police take kids to shop through “Helpers and Heroes”

Knightdale police Lt. Justin Guthrie, right, shows Shakayla Shannon-Jones how to fill a Pez dispenser after she finishes shopping during Target’s Heroes and Helpers event on Dec. 12.
Knightdale police Lt. Justin Guthrie, right, shows Shakayla Shannon-Jones how to fill a Pez dispenser after she finishes shopping during Target’s Heroes and Helpers event on Dec. 12. kbettis@newsobserver.com

Eleven-year-old Sherkayla “Kayla” Shannon-Jones made out like a bandit while shopping at Target, joked Knightdale police officers.

During the week of Dec. 7-12, Knightdale police partnered with Target for an event called “Heroes and Helpers,” more commonly known as “Shop with a Cop.” Eight children were chosen based on financial need from their area schools to spend up to $125 on anything in the store.

Knightdale police Lt. Justin Guthrie initiated the department’s first partnership with Target, which provided them with a $1,000 grant.

On Friday afternoon, Kayla arrived at the Target at the Shoppes at Midway Drives with her mom, Nicole Jones, meeting up with a force of four members of the Knightdale Police Department and two Target security guards.

Not only was the shopping trip a Christmas celebration, but Kayla told the officers that it was her 11th birthday that very day.

“This is like my birthday party,” she said.

She initially thought that she knew what she wanted, but as soon as she hit the clothing section, she changed her mind. After searching the racks and shelves, she settled on a bright pink vest and a pair of jeans.

Her mother joked that she should get a onesie – “for my little girl,” she said – but then something caught her eye.

“Kayla, what have you always wanted?” Jones asked. “A jewelry box!”

Kayla happily selected a royal purple jewelry box with a handle and placed it in the cart, pushed by police officer Patricia Moore.

Then, it suddenly occurred to her that she had always wanted an N.C. State t-shirt. The entourage, including three Target employees, weaved in and out through the store, drawing attention from regular customers.

When Kayla decided she wanted black fur-lined boots, all forces were called upon. Guthrie, Moore and Jones helped Kayla look for the right size shoe, and when they couldn’t find it, the Target employees alerted the back room with their walkie-talkies.

The trip concluded about an hour later, and as Guthrie made the purchases, the other officers bought some Starbucks coffee and ushered the family to a back office for sweets, a debrief and a chance for the Target employees to wrap Kayla’s presents.

“It’s been a struggle for the little things,” Jones said, getting emotional. She has two other children. “It’s been a a blessing, she got more than enough.”

Starting a tradition

Guthrie said that he would like to increase the amount of donations next year, so the event can sponsor more children or allow them to buy more items – for what they need, or simply want.

He said that little boy who had shopped earlier in the week dutifully purchased clothes that he needed, reluctantly admitting that he would like a toy, too. Guthrie purchased it for him out of his own pocket.

“This is why I got in this line of work in the first place,” he said.

The same boy’s family couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, so Target security guard Justin Peterson bought one for them.

Police chief Lawrence Capps supported Guthrie’s initiative.

“We’re looking forward to shopping with the children because it can help their families, but also because we get to spend some time with them in a quiet setting,” he said. “We want them to know that behind the badge, we’re just like them, and many of us have families of our own.”

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