Santa’s helpers weren’t dressed in the typical red and green clothing Saturday.
Instead, they wore blue.
Around 50 police officers from the area and their families showed up at Walmart in Seymour to take kids Christmas shopping as part of the Cops and Kids program sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police.
Brittany Mott and her six children didn’t care about the helper’s uniforms, because they needed something to make their Christmas just a little bit brighter.
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“Their father passed away this year from cancer,” Mott said as her children spent time shopping with officers from Seymour Police Department.
With help from Sgt. Brandon White, Corp. Adam Surface and their families, the Motts wound through the aisles, first to the clothing sections for both boys and girls, before eventually finding their way to the toys.
The program puts a priority on necessities such as warm clothing for winter, but a portion of money is always left to allow children to buy a toy they want. The only restriction is that it can not be cellphones or computers that require service fees or Internet connection to function.
“This is an awesome program,” Mott said. “It’s been a real blessing.”
Seymour Police Detective C.J. Foster, president of the FOP’s Donald M. Winn Lodge 108, said the generosity of donors this year far surpassed previous years, making it a record-breaking event.
The program is paid for through donations from businesses and individuals and lodge fundraisers, including a car show this past summer and by selling ice cream floats during the annual Scoop The Loop in downtown Seymour.
The increase in funds allowed the lodge to help a record 107 children purchase Christmas presents and provide a meal to each family.
Cops and Kids also receives support from the Seymour Area Cruiser’s Car Club along with Centra Credit Union and the Centra Foundation. Proceeds raised by the first Mother and Son Date Knight event at the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour in April also went to the cause. That event was organized by Heather Chase of Seymour.
“The outpouring of generosity from citizens and businesses this year has just been wonderful,” Foster said.
Although he didn’t know exactly how much had been collected, Foster said it was enough to increase the amount each child could spend from $100 to $130. The program typically serves between 60 and 75 kids, spending between $6,500 and $8,000, he added.
This year, he estimated the amount spent was closer to $15,000.
Designed to help needy children and their families in the community, the program, which began in 1994, has a secondary benefit — promoting positive police presence in the community.
Besides Seymour police, officers with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Brownstown, Crothersville and Medora police departments along with state troopers and staff from the Jackson County Jail helped out too.
“It makes Christmas a little more special,” Seymour Officer Tim Toborg said. “I think this program and the Sertoma (Christmas Miracle) speak to the heart of our community.”
Toborg said he helps with Cops and Kids every year he can and the program has become a favorite of his. He remembers participating in the first Cops and Kids, when it was called Shop with a Cop and was held at Kmart in Seymour. Twenty kids each received $50 for Christmas that year including $25 from the store.
The program meant more this year, both to the officers and children, because of recent anti-police sentimentality at the national level, Toborg said.
“It’s different in Seymour,” Toborg said. “We have such high levels of support from the community. Look at the donations and the generosity to the program.”
Mott said she feels the program does a good job of introducing children to the people who are hired to protect them.
“My youngest, Wyatt, wants to be a cop, or a firefighter, one of the two,” Mott said. “I think the program brings the community closer.”
Leeanna Dinkens, who was at the event for the first time, said she loved it, because it was time spent with her family.
“The kids love it,” Mott said. “What kid doesn’t like Christmas shopping, and they get to do it with cops.”
Mott was signed up for the program by a family member, while Dinkens heard about the program through a friend.
To be eligible, families had to submit a letter with the name and age of the child and a brief description of the family’s situation.
Foster said organizers may look at restructuring the application process next year.