About 500 kids to receive gifts this year with Shop with a Cop

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SOUTHINGTON -- Kids who may have otherwise not had a special Christmas had a great time on Tuesday at one of the state's annual Shop with a Cop events.

Each year, officers from departments across the state come out for several of these events at Targets in different towns. It's for underprivileged kids, and meant to help them get in the holiday spirit.

"In the world that we live in we have to understand that not everybody's as fortunate," explained Trooper Josue Dorelus, with the State Police.

The $100 gifts for the children are funded by the REACH Foundation, and kids like 8-year-old Juliano can pick whatever they want. So what did he go for?

"A basketball hoop that goes behind my door," among other things. But Juliano wasn't selfish -- he used some of his money for his baby sister on the way, purchasing wipes and diapers.

The event starts with bowling, followed by pizza and then the shopping event. It's to serve the children most in need in the community. Those kids are picked with the assistance of social services.

On Tuesday, about 70 police officers attended the event in Southington. In addition to the kids who get to shop, each officer got $25 to buy a gift for another kid in the community who couldn't make it out to the Shop with a Cop event.

The annual event started in 2013 with just 50 children and 50 officers, but it has grown substantially. This year, about 250 kids participated in shopping events, and an additional 250 were given gifts.

The REACH Foundation said in a statement, "The value this opportunity provides for these children, few will ever truly understand...This one day gives them the opportunity to set (all their troubles) aside and enjoy the meaning of the holidays."

It's also intended to build a more positive relationship between children and police.

"We're there to build relationships, we're there to be your friend, and I think it really helps them feel open enough to come to us if they're having problems in their lives," Dorelus said.

There were four Shop with a Cop events this year in Manchester, Enfield, Southington and Milford.