CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — On Saturday, the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) sponsored its 26th annual Cops and Kids event.
Sgt. Dean Vernon with the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Department is vice president of FOP Lodge 64 in Concord who helped put on the event.
"It's just one of those opportunities for us to work side by side with our community partners and businesses to come together and realize that we've got children in our community that have some needs and are underprivileged, and to share some joy with them for Christmas and also to take the burden off of those families and give them some smiles and Christmas joy," Sgt. Vernon said.
This year's event was different than in years past, because of the pandemic.
Typically, the day starts with dozens of kids treated to a Chick-Fil-A breakfast at the Cabarrus County Boys and Girls Club. From there, the kids would be paired up with an officer as their shopping buddy and go on a shopping spree for toys and clothes, but this year, it was different.
The Cabarrus County Boys & Girls club allowed the FOP to use the parking lot as a distribution point, and the kids were given Chick-Fil-A breakfast gift cards.
Sgt. Vernon said that was not the only change. Traditionally, the officers and kids would leave together from breakfast and do a lights and sirens escort up to Walmart.
Because of coronavirus concerns, that could not happen.
"Not having the kids with us on that part was different because it's a lot of fun being with them in Walmart, walking around with them and shopping and picking out clothes for them and the toys they want and enjoying that part, so because of covid that's kind of taken that away from us," Sgt. Vernon said.
Instead, the officers met up at 8:45 a.m. to go shopping for the kids' toys and clothes and took them back to the Boys & Girls Club. Parents and children stayed in their cars with signs posted for officers to identify the children, and they delivered the toys to them that way.
There could not be the typical pizza luncheon to end the day either, so Sgt. Vernon said Hungry Howie's delivered pizzas so each family could take one home.
Though it was different, Sgt. Vernon said he was happy they could still make it happen.