SWAC Use this one

Skyla and Makayla Walton in the photo they created as a “forever gift” for their grandmother, Melanie Turner. The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office sponsored the 2018 Shop With A Cop program at Wal-Mart.

DCSO officers help girls give ‘forever gift’

By Denise Ray This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; photos by DSCO Lt. Brad Hardman.

Two loving girls, quick thinking officers and this Smoke Signals reporter teamed up to make an unforgettable Christmas gift for Melanie Turner—a very special grandmother. The girls wanted to give their grandmother a gift for Christmas instead of using the money provided by Dawson County’s 2018 Shop With A Cop (SWAC) program at Wal-Mart for their own gifts.

 SWAC 1
 Deputy Sarah Hafner discusses the next step in her shopping with a local Dawson County boy during the 2018 Shop with a Cop Dec. 19, 2018 at Wal-Mart in Dawsonville. Hafner was one of 25 officers who participated in the annual event.

Dressed in Christmas finery with matching black and red dresses and big, bright smiles, Makayla and Skyla Walton had chosen a few items for themselves at the Dec. 19 evening event. After some careful thought, they decided that their grandmother needed a gift, too. A gift that would “last forever” the girls said.

After discussion between the girls and their designated cop, Dawson County Investigator Ed Roach—along with a suggestion or two from a certain reporter—the girls decided to have a photograph taken of themselves.

 SWAC 2
It was a “guys only” event as three boys and Cpl. Jake Crawford, left, and Cpl. Zack Totherow went up and down the aisles of Wal-Mart looking for just the right toys. “It’s great,” said Crawford. “It’s a good opportunity to give back and to see a different side of the community.”

And so began a mobile arts and crafts session through the aisles of Wal-Mart for two law enforcement officers, a reporter and two girls with hearts filled with love for their grandmother.

Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brad Hardman was documenting the event with his camera, snapping photos of kids and cops shopping. After finding him in a sea of shopping buggies, police officers and very eager pint-sized shoppers, Hardman eagerly agreed to photograph the girls.

With the photographer on board, the next issue was location. The girls decided they wanted flowers, so off the group went in search of the perfect floral setting inside Wal-Mart. Officer Roach pushing the buggy of Barbies, Officer Hardman with his camera, two girls with speed and determination, and this reporter traipsed through the store, in search of the artificial flower aisle.

 SWAC 3
It seems like no matter how young, a boy wants a car. Here Deputy Josh Rogers and his shopping buddies do a little car shopping.

The section was covered in fake flowers, some with actual names (but fake petals, stems and other parts) and others were covered in glitter, clearly “artificial”. From the bottom shelf to the top one, every variety of flower was crammed into containers. In fact, the top shelf was so crowded with the flora that several stems arched over the aisle.

“Look,” exclaimed Skyla, “It’s like we’re under a tree.”

The sisters then decided they had to hold some flowers. Again, a serious perusal of the flowers and choices were made.

As Officer Roach stood off to the side, quietly watching the photo session unfold, Hardman had the girls stand close together and took several shots then hit the shutter release and captured a few more images.

 SWAC 4
Cpl. Zach Smith, seen here with sisters, spent plenty of time in the cosmetics department of Wal-Mart as one of the girls wanted makeup for Christmas. Smith said that he has participated in Shop With A Cop for at least four years.

“I want to see them,” said Skyla, with her older sister echoing the sentiment as Hardman positioned the photo in the view finder. The girls were delighted.

Operation “Present for Grandma” went to the next phase as the Robinson Elementary third and fourth graders mentioned a frame.

“It has to have flowers,” explained Makayla.

A very simple black frame was chosen and the shopping soon returned to what the girls wanted for Christmas.

With money spent, the picture taken, a frame chosen—and more importantly, time running out—the trio headed to the cashier to check-out.

 SWAC 5
CRiverview Elementary School School Resource Officer Brian Cantrell kept kids entertained in line as they waited to pay for their haul. Here a child attempts to trick Cantrell into believing he has thirteen fingers. Riverview was responsible for raising over $2,000 according to Sheriff Jeff Johnson.

Logistics of how to sneak the frame into the house without Grandma finding out anything were bounced around. The solution: hide the frame in the elder sister’s backpack until Christmas morning.

Handing his card to Makayla, Hardman told the girls to have Grandma contact him and he’d email the picture.

“But it has to be in the frame when we give it to her,” the 10-year old replied.

Ready to solve that problem, Hardman dashed off to Wal-Mart’s photo center to have the print made. Meanwhile, Officer Roach and his little shoppers waited in line to check out. With over 60 children, the wait was lengthy. When they were almost next to check out—and Hardman still hadn’t returned with the photo—the girls spied their grandmother in the crowd of waiting family members.

“Oh, no!” explained Skyla. “There’s Grandma. She can’t see this. What are we going to do?”

Suddenly, Hardman appeared, envelope in hand with the photograph. Both girls ready to check out while trying to hide the photo from their waiting grandma, who was ready to gather the girls, their purchases and head home.

But the gift remained unassembled.

“What are we going to do now,” the girls continued to ask repeatedly while the grownups did even more brainstorming. The plan: distract grandma while the girls, Office Roach and this reporter sneaked into the Vision Center to insert the photo into the frame and then hide the finished project in the backpack.

Officer Hardman scooted away to ask Sheriff Jeff Johnson to distract the girls’ grandmother.

“Let me see, let me see!” urged the girls, as soon as the photo was placed into the frame. Their reaction was priceless.

Sheriff Johnson continued to hold off Grandma as the group hurriedly hid the gift in the backpack. Everyone tried to act nonchalant as they headed toward Grandma still chatting with the sheriff.

The girls said their goodbyes to Officer Roach and headed off. Skyla stopped, turned around and came rushing toward me, hugging me tightly.

“Thank you,” she said. “Merry Christmas.”

Looking up, I saw Grandma smiling, waiting for her little granddaughter.

I couldn’t help but smile back, knowing that Grandma was going to get a wonderful present from two loving little girls.

 

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