WESTBOROUGH – In the early evening of Dec. 19, hundreds of children waited outside the garden section at Walmart on Route 9 in Framingham.
Where normally the space would be full of plants, pots and other outdoor equipment, on this night more than 50 police officers were ready to take the children shopping for holiday gifts.
It was the eighth annual Shop with a Cop, founded by Framingham Police Officer Matthew Gutwill. He said the event is not only a way for less fortunate families to celebrate the holidays but to build better relationships.
“They see us in a whole different light,” he said.
He added that 568 children had signed up in advance, with more expected.
“We never turn a child away,” said Gutwill.
Three members of Westborough’s Police Department – officers Chris Traynor and Joe Cibotti, and Det. Elysha O’Brien – took part in the event.
Along with the other officers, they received instructions from Gutwill – each child in the family receives $50 to purchase gifts; accompany the children as they explore the aisles; once they purchase their gift items and leave, head back and accompany another family.
“I look forward to it every year,” said Cibotti, who’s been taking part in the program for four years. “It shows compassion and humanity. You see not only in the kids’ faces, but in the parents’ faces.”
Cibotti added that the event was a way to catch up with fellow officers, and that he hopes to have more Westborough officers take part next year.
Close to $30,000 was raised for this year’s event. The funds are collected partly from donations, partly from the officers – in Westborough’s case, from the Westborough Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps fund WPD programs and community initiatives.
For more information about the foundation, visit www.westboroughpolicefoundation.org.
In addition to Westborough, police from Framingham, Natick, Weston, Wayland, Newton, Brookline, Littleton, Ashland, Uxbridge, Framingham State University and Assumption College participated, along with members of the State Police.