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MailTribune.com
  • To protect, to serve, and to shop

    Ashland police officers assist children during a pre-Christmas spree
  • Officer Andy Reinholz was in Walmart on Center Drive in Medford early Saturday morning, watching as 8-year-old Aden Allen scanned the shelves of the sporting goods department.
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  • Officer Andy Reinholz was in Walmart on Center Drive in Medford early Saturday morning, watching as 8-year-old Aden Allen scanned the shelves of the sporting goods department.
    "He is really careful," said Reinholz, still pushing an empty cart after browsing the entire toy department.
    Reinholz and most of his colleagues at the Ashland Police Department reported for duty Saturday to the store, ready to take a handful of children like Aden on mini Christmas shopping sprees.
    The annual "Shop with a Cop" program pairs police department staff with children identified by St. Vincent de Paul as those in need of a few extra gifts this Christmas.
    After about a half-hour of shopping, Aden had picked out a Wiffle-ball bat and ball, Empire Monopoly, a remote-controlled helicopter and some football gloves for a wide receiver.
    Sixteen kids received $100 gift cards to spend, paid for by Walmart and donations collected from the police department.
    Aden said he thought it was "cool" that he got to go shopping for toys and games before Christmas.
    "I think this is great, but I don't think a lot of people know about it," said Reinholz, as he pushed a cart behind Aden.
    "I think I'm gonna go to the scooter aisle," Aden said, with Reinholz following behind.
    Reinholz said he thinks the event is a good way for children to interact with police in a positive, playful way, rather than when something bad happens.
    "They usually only talk to us when they're in trouble," he said.
    Now in its fourth year, Ashland's "Shop with a Cop" program was started by Sgt. Warren Hensman, a former Las Vegas Metro police officer. Hensman said he didn't get enough of an opportunity to participate in a similar program in Las Vegas, and decided to create his own event here.
    "Our community involvement here is huge," said Hensman, who knew the event would go over well with Ashland.
    Hensman said Walmart donated $1,000 toward the event, and the rest was raised by staff, with a final boost from Police Chief Terry Holderness — bumping the gift cards up to $100 for each child or family that participated.
    "It's pretty neat. They're going crazy," said Cody Lewis, looking over a full shopping cart that his children, Paige and Haiden, had nearly filled just a few minutes into their shopping trip.
    Paige, 5, attends Ashland Head Start, and picked out a stuffed animal dog and a sword, which she used to playfully chase after Officer Matt Caswell after checking out.
    "It's awesome. It's a lot of fun for us to go shopping with the kids," said Caswell.
    Paige settled for a dog because she couldn't find a toy wolf like she wanted, and her younger brother Haiden, 3, picked out a few new sets of Hot Wheels cars before the family headed home.
    Back in the toy department, 10-year-old Gavin Allen, Aden's brother, peered into his sibling's cart to compare loot before the two made their final decisions. Both brothers had picked out remote controlled helicopters and football gloves, and Gavin had also added a Street Boss scooter and a helmet.
    "He said he would buy me the helmet," said Gavin, pointing to Officer Scott Wenzel. "Just to be safe."
    Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.
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