By R. Scott Belzer
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — This time of year, the Walmart on Ky. 192 can be a hectic, chaotic place. Between people bumping into other people, customers cutting each other off in line, and the overall stress from the holidays, one can be hard-pressed to find a smiling face.
On Monday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m., it wasn't hard to find more than 100 smiling faces —half of which belonged to Kentucky State Troopers. The other half consisted of 51 elementary students from across southeastern Kentucky, each armed with $100 to spend at their leisure.
Monday marked the 18th time Kentucky State Police (KSP) Post 11 hosted the annual “Shop-With-a-Trooper” event. Run completely off donations, the event gives children from Laurel, Clay, McCreary, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Wayne and Whitley counties the opportunity to have a better Christmas.
“Shop-With-a-Trooper” occurs in 16 sections throughout the state, each dependent upon a nearby Kentucky State Police Post. Troopers at each post choose deserving children from each county to spend $100 on toys and clothing, all with an armed escort.
“It's all right if you guys go over the $100 limit, but by no means go to $200,” said Tpr. Lloyd Cochran in a huddle before the event. “It's alright if you get video games, if that's what you want, but keep it age appropriate. No shoot'em up games.”
After a group photo, KSP troopers were paired up with a participating child and family. The groups then began the process of picking out University of Kentucky jackets, monster truck toys, pink parkas and baby carriages.
“Now the only problem is trying to find the right price tag,” said Tpr. Nick Metcalf as he helped Tabitha Peters and her baby find the right “tot table.”
Walmart shoppers could only look on in bewilderment, never shy in expressing their surprise in seeing such a great thing happen on a Monday evening. This was in no doubt helped by a WYMT correspondent following around Tpr. Lloyd Cochran and Tpr. Josh Wilson, complete with camera and tripod.
“A lot of these kids, we're in their homes every day,” said Tpr. Lloyd Cochran. “It's my personal mission to make sure these kids have a better Christmas, and, at the same time, show them that the police are a good, helpful thing.”
Only 51 children participated in this year's event, as many as 200 have taken part in years past.
Those interested in donating to next year's “Shop-With-a-Trooper” should contact Tpr. Lloyd Chochran at (606) 878-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.