Local law enforcement took a group of children on a Christmas shopping spree at Kmart Thursday evening, just in time for the holidays.
The annual Shop with a Cop event is funded through donations received by the Thunder on the Mountain Car Show committee and the Tehachapi Police Foundation.
This year, 22 students of the Tehachapi Unified School District were nominated by their teachers and selected to receive a $100 gift card to buy whatever they wanted, with Kmart adding to this amount through 10 to 20 percent in-store discounts.
Along with TPD officers, Union Pacific Railroad Police, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Highway Patrol and Kern County Sheriff's officers and deputies accompanied the children on their shopping spree.
According to Kim Nixon, of the Tehachapi Police Foundation, this is the seventh year children have shopped with a cop.
"I've been blessed to participate in it every single year," Nixon said. "I think that the best thing is for the kids to connect with officers and to see them in a friendly, fun environment. The community comes and donates in a big way."
Before shopping, the children were invited to the Tehachapi Police Department, where they feasted on pizza and had the opportunity to meet Santa Claus. The children were then bundled up and put in squad cars and other emergency vehicles and drove to Kmart, arriving in a hail of sirens and flashing lights.
"All these policemen, they all volunteer, and none of them get paid," said Steve Williams, former announcer and committee member of the Thunder on the Mountain Car Show.
Once the children received their shopping instructions, they were escorted throughout the store with their assigned officer who guided them in selecting their purchases. Some children headed straight for the toy section of the store while others took a more practical approach by trying on the latest styles of boots offered at Kmart.
"It's fantastic to be able to give these kids a good Christmas, which some of them may not be able to have," said Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger. "We couldn't do it without all the generous donations that we get from the Thunder on the Mountain Car Show committee, our Tehachapi Police Foundation, M&M Sports who donated the T-shirts to the kids, and, of course, Kmart who hosts this every year."
The chief said he was also thankful for the opportunity to meet and interact with the children.
"Sometimes, in our business, it's not in the best of circumstances that we first meet with some kids, and this gives us an opportunity to do that," Kroeger said.
After shopping the children were taken back to the station where they were picked up by their parents.
"It's so rewarding, just to watch the kids' faces light up," said Jim Wallace, president of the Tehachapi Police Foundation. "We noticed that some of them will shop for their siblings or their parents before they shop for themselves."