One mother at the annual Shop with a Cop event hosted by the Public Relations Student Society of America described it program nothing short of amazing.
“It’s a true blessing,” said Adrainne Kelley-Wright, a senior from Chicago studying special education and mother of three of the shoppers. “It’s wonderful to see SIU in the community with this being such a small town.”
Shop with a Cop is an event that many groups across the nation host, where children walk around a pre-determined store with a police officer to select holiday gifts for their family. The event is hosted in December for families with student parents to promote holiday spirit to Carbondale children and exhibit the importance of giving to others. Phil Riggs, a junior from Morrisonville studying speech communication and PRSSA vice president, said 13 local businesses donated to the charity and helped the event grow from 10 kids at last year’s event to 15 this year. The amount of people at Shop with a Cop also significantly rose, Riggs said, and more than 80 people were expected to attend the event.
Riggs also said an anonymous $500 donation was made to support the event.
He said each child was given a $100 gift card to shop, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the city businesses’ generosity and Primo’s catering.
“(Primo’s) has been unbelievably helpful with us,” he said. “They donated mass amounts of pizza just so the kids could be fed.”
Denise McClearey, a senior lecturer in speech communication and faculty adviser for PRSSA, said the group has prepared for the event since the semester’s third week and raised $1,000 for it.
Even though it’s the group’s second year to host the event, McClearey said she would like to see it continue for years to come.
Riggs said preparations have been made to ensure Shop with a Cop remains a yearly event even after everyone in PRSSA has graduated.
“We’re really trying to solidify this event as a tradition for our organization, so each year we’re going to do this, and we’re going to try and do it bigger and better,” he said.
McClearey said the 62 PRSSA members have a lot to be proud of, and gatherings like this show a bright future to come with graduating students.
“I know that society spends a lot of time bashing young people, and there’s always been that sort of tradition of older people looking at college students saying, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to hell, or the world’s going to be a terrible place and they’re going to be in charge of it,’” McClearey said. “But I don’t feel that way because I get to work with these kids every day, and I am a very proud faculty adviser.”
Siedah McNeil, a junior from Chicago studying psychology, said the experience was great for her family, and she expects families in future years to benefit as well.
She said her son first learned about the event through Evergreen Terrace’s after-school program, where he was told to write a letter to the PRSSA about what Christmas means to him.
McNeil said her son was chosen for the event last week and has talked non-stop about it since. She said her son was encouraged to buy gifts for the whole family, so it will add to the whole family’s experience on Christmas morning.
Brothers Felipe and Matias Calderon shopped as a pair at Kohl’s and were happy to find presents for every family member, but the two had time to grab some toys for themselves as well.
Kelley-Wright said the event was very well organized and she hopes next year’s Shop with a Cop is advertised more so more families have a chance to experience what her three children did.
Her oldest son normally has trouble with loud places, but he was very calm at the event because there was always something to do between a pizza dinner and wrapping presents, she said.
However, Kelley-Wright said her son took more away from the event than simply gifts and pizza.
“Since he does have behavioral problems, he has been taken out of school by cops,” she said. “So for him to see them in a different light is important, especially for him… Now he wants to be a cop.”