Belinda Lawson has had a rough year-and-a-half.

Her 16-month-old son, Jase, has spent a lot of time at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis because of a heart condition. Jase had spinal cord surgery this summer, so Lawson has not been able to go to work.

Belinda Lawson wasn’t sure what kind of Christmas she could provide for Jase and her other two children.

Thankfully, a friend told her about the Cops and Kids program. She applied and was accepted.

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On Saturday, Seymour Police Officer Ben Miller took time out of his day to shop with Lawson and her 12-year-old son, Trevor, at Walmart in Seymour.

“It’s a huge blessing because it takes a lot of extra pressure off me as a mom,” Lawson said. “I know that (Trevor) is getting something that he wants, and it’s something exciting that he can do, something that he got to look forward to do and it’s not about his brother this time. It’s about him.”

While it was fun to pick out some things for himself, Trevor still had his brother on his mind. Jase rode along in the cart.

“It’s nice because I’ve been there for him since Day 1,” Trevor said. “I’ve been to Riley all the time.”

Trevor was among 60 Jackson County children benefiting from this

year’s program.

To be eligible, families submitted a letter with the name and age of the child and a brief description of the family situation.

Officers from Seymour and Brownstown police departments, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and American Legion Post Commander Jack Schrader helped kids and their families shop Saturday. D.A.R.E. Role Models and some of the officers’ spouses and children also participated.

Seymour Detective C.J. Foster, who is in charge of the program, said $6,000 was collected, giving each child $100 to spend. A good portion of the money came from a fundraiser by program sponsor Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 in Seymour. Money also came from grants and the Centra Foundation.

This was the 24th year of the program, formerly known as Shop with a Cop.

“All of the officers enjoy spending time with the kids and vice versa,” Foster said. “I think we’ve had one of our biggest turnouts this year in officers.”

For Trevor, the first stop was the electronics department so he could pick out an Xbox game. From there, he tossed pajamas, socks, a plastic mug, a basketball and Pokemon cards into

his cart.

“I thought it was nice to be able to do that because some things I didn’t have for home, and there were a few things that I needed extra of,” Trevor said.

Lawson said she’s glad her friend told her about Cops and Kids.

“I just think it’s a really good thing for the community,” she said. “It’s definitely something out there that if you really need it, then sign up and try for it.”

This was Miller’s first

time participating in Cops and Kids.

“It’s good to know that the department is making a difference. This whole deal is making a difference,” he said. “I think everybody here is taking advantage of it, and it’s really helping the families out when they need help. It’s good to know that you are giving back and helping, just a few minutes out of our day to make a difference.”

Miller shopped with a couple of families, and

he said their stories

were touching.

“All of the kids seem to have a really good time,” he said. “Everybody is happy and in a good mood. It’s good for the season.”

Four-year-old Brennan Wingler said he had a

good time shopping with his grandmother, Pam Browning, and Jackson County Reserve Officer Brad Barker.

Brennan first picked out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gear and Nerf and Hot Wheels items in the

toy department.

“I brought in a list of things that he needed and what to focus on when he went to the toys because I knew he would be everywhere and want everything,” Browning said.

Then Brennan selected a new pair of shoes, blue jeans and an outfit.

“He definitely needed the shoes, and he’s getting a lot taller for some of his blue jeans,” Browning said. “I think he’s went through the growth spurt when they usually go through it in middle school.”

Browning said the Cops and Kids program is a big help.

“It’s awesome, especially when they are not going to get a lot for Christmas or you can’t afford to get it and you’ve depleted your savings like I have,” she said. “It’s really nice that they get something that they need, too.”

It also is a good opportunity for kids to get comfortable around police officers,

she said.

“Most kids (Brennan’s) age are more scared of policemen because of what they’ve heard, and I think it just gives them a different idea about how policemen are and that they are here to help,” Browning said.

Barker said he has participated in the program for four years. He likes meeting different families and seeing how appreciative they are.

“It’s fun to see what different kids want and see the joy on their faces whenever they do get to pick out what they want,” he said.

The officers get a lot out of the program, too, Barker said.

“Letting the kids show you some joy this year, it’s rewarding for us, as well,” he said. “I’m just glad I can be a part of it.”

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.