SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - Smiles, laughter and tears of joy helped ring in Christmas week for 65 children with the help of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff's office held its first "Shop with a Cop" event Saturday in Slidell. The day started with a festive breakfast and ended with a shopping spree showcasing everyone's holiday spirit.
"Words cannot express what this meant to these children and our employees," Sheriff Jack Strain said. "Our employees stepped up to the plate like nothing I've ever seen."
Deputies volunteered to serve breakfast at the sheriff's administrative building in Slidell. Santa and his elves were on hand, along with a few K-9s dressed for the occasion. There was even a baby alligator to help complete the Cajun Christmas.
After breakfast, each child was given $100 to buy gifts for themselves or family members at a local Walmart.
"As they arrived, you could see excitement in the children's eyes and an unspoken thankfulness on the parents' faces," said Sgt. Jeremy Church, one of the event's organizers.
The store decorated special shopping carts for the kids. The shopping spree drew members of the public who asked how they could donate on the spot. Deputies even dipped into their own pockets when some of the children went over their $100 shopping limit.
Five Walmart employees donated time to help kids checkout and gave each child a bag of Christmas candy.
The children were all referred to the sheriff's office by the Youth Service Bureau.
The event was a tremendous success, but what became jingle bell rock was almost a silent night. Participation by another organization fell through. The sheriff's office was able to step in at the last minute and secure funding for the kids.
Strain said his office is making plans to make "Shop with a Cop" an annual event.
Sunrise on Second, the Creole Bagelry, Not Just Donuts and Chick-Fil-A donated food for the breakfast.