MAYS LANDING — Last month, officers from the Ventnor Police Department were called to Anntwanette Grasty’s city home for a carbon monoxide alarm.
A few weeks later, Grasty found out her 6-year-old daughter, Nyla, was chosen to participate in Shop with a Cop, a yearly event that matches children with law enforcement from all over South Jersey for a shopping spree ahead of the holidays.
“I’m excited,” Grasty said, adding that Nyla has special needs due to spina bifida, a condition that affects her spine. “I know she’s going to have a blast.”
The event, run by the Egg Harbor Township Police Athletic League, kicked off Saturday morning at the township’s community center, where about 135 kids were given breakfast and paired with an officer. Then, a parade of police cars, SWAT vehicles, fire trucks and buses made their way to Walmart. Each child was given $100 to spend, an effort made possible by donations and sponsorships.
“It’s something wonderful they do for the community,” Grasty said. “It makes (the kids) feel special.”
Hector Tavarez, executive director of the PAL, said this year set a record for the number of children, law enforcement and officials involved in the program.
“This is one of the few events that the EHT PAL is able to put together that involves every agency in Atlantic County, state agencies and other municipalities,” Tavarez said, adding that so many officials wanted to be involved that there were more officers than children this year. “There is no better single event than our Shop with a Cop.”
Tevis Conley, of Mays Landing, surprised his two children, 11-year-old Dayshaun Morton and 8-year-old Breanna Conley, by bringing them to the event.
“I think it’s great,” Conley said. “It’s really good for the community.”
Asked if they knew how they were going to spend their money, Dayshaun and Breanna shook their heads, their eyes wide.
Atlantic City police Lt. Wilber Santiago, who heads the Neighborhood Coordination Unit, explained that every officer chose the child they would shop with from the ward in which they’re assigned.
“Some of these officers already have a relationship with their kid because they’ve been to their house for a crisis,” Santiago said. “Now, we’re in their lives. We have a connection with them and can see them grow.” Contact: 609-272-7241 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @ACPressMollyB