Local law enforcement members help children pick out gifts in annual shopping event

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Sgt. Amy Rhoads of the Lawrence Police Department helps Kali Fry, 4, pick out a Hula-Hoop during the Take Our Youth Shopping event on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, at the west Lawrence Walmart.

Seeing local law enforcement officers help children pick out their favorite gifts this holiday season almost brought tears to the eyes of Amanda Vervynck.

“It’s amazing,” said Vervynck, the director of education for the Ballard Community Center. “It makes me want to cry.”

Local law enforcement agencies helped bring the holiday spirit to about 30 pre-kindergarten children of the Ballard Center on Friday by taking them shopping for gifts at the west Lawrence Walmart, 550 Congressional Drive. The children excitedly picked out toys and other items for themselves and their families during the annual Take Our Youth Shopping event, also known as TOYS.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Sgt. Chris Schweer, center, of the KU Police Department meets Harris Fatzer, 3, left, of the Ballard Center on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Schweer and other local law enforcement officers helped the children pick out and buy gifts for their annual Take Our Youth Shopping, or TOYS, event.

Capt. Doug Woods of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, a longtime organizer of the TOYS event, said the officers all enjoyed seeing the children smile when they picked out their gifts. He said the event was a great opportunity to encourage positive interactions between children and law enforcement while providing a community service.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Woods said. “Everybody looks forward to it.”

The agencies that took part in the event included the sheriff’s office, the Lawrence Police Department, the University of Kansas Police and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Vervynck said the 2019 edition of the event was her first since joining the Ballard Center.

“I love this,” she said. “Some of these kids are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and just to see their faces light up and buy things for their family, it’s amazing.”

photo by: Dylan Lysen

KU Police Officer Amanda Harmon leads Bishop Moore, 3, left, and Willow Fannin, 4, right, into the store for the annual Take Our Youth Shopping event on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Local law enforcement officers helped the children of the Ballard Center pick out and buy holiday gifts.

Prior to taking the children shopping, the officers joined the children for a warm breakfast at the McDonald’s across the street. Once the children made their purchases, the officers took the gifts back to the station, where volunteers wrapped them.

Toys from the Disney movie “Frozen” were hot items. KHP Master Trooper Rodney King said the child he was helping, 5-year-old Emerah Brown, picked out several of the “Frozen” toys for herself and her sister.

Woods said that King, who appeared to be well over 6 feet tall, helping Brown perfectly symbolized the event.

“When you see a big trooper like that carrying around a (small) kid, that’s pretty cool,” Woods said with a laugh.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Emerah Brown, 5, meets Santa Claus during the annual Take Our Youth Shopping event on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Master Trooper Rodney King, center, of the Kansas Highway Patrol ushered Brown as she selected gifts during the event.

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