BUCYRUS — An excited group of children from Galion spent time buying Christmas presents on Monday thanks to the generosity of the Galion Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #71 and local donors.
Ten students from the Galion Local School District were selected to participate in the Shop with a Cop program this year, said Officer Ralph Burwell, Student Resource Officer for the Galion Police Department. Three high school students, three students from the middle school, and four students from the intermediate school each shopped with a local police officer at the Bucyrus Walmart.
Burwell noted that this is the largest group of students to ever participate in Shop with a Cop.
“We started out with six the first year and served six kids a year for the first few years,” Burwell said. “In spite of (the COVID-19 pandemic), we still came out last year and had eight kids that we sponsored and helped.”
Burwell, who’s been involved with the Galion Shop with a Cop program for five years, said the FOP works with the Galion City School District to compile a list of children each year and officers from the Galion Police Department select the final list of students. Then they set a date to take the children shopping. Burwell and former officer Steve Knapp started the program in Galion.
“It means so much,” said Burwell. “I mean, to see the smiles on their faces — I mean, look at that (gesturing to the student who was shopping with him). And it’s good for me because I see these kids every day and I’ve built a relationship with some of them. It means a lot that we can give back. Our FOP, our businesses in Galion, they give donations to help us proceed with this each year. It’s truly a blessing to be able to come out here and spend time with these kids and let them get what they want.”
Burwell said because of his daily involvement with the students at the schools, he doesn’t participate in the selection process for Shop with a Cop.
Cathy Wample, a coach with the Bucyrus Walmart, said the local partnership is rewarding for everyone involved in the program.
“This is my third year to be involved in this at this Walmart and I think it’s great,” Wample said. “I love to see the kids’ faces and the smiles as they’re going through the store shopping. Our associates love it. We have a great time with the kids every year. And I think it’s great that we can support the community by doing this.”
Burwell said each student was given $150 to spend on the shopping trip this year.
“A lot of times they don’t have a lot of money to spend on family gifts, so we just want to do our part to help them out,” Burwell said.
Izzy, a freshman at Galion High School, went shopping with Burwell as her sponsor on Monday. She said she appreciates the generosity of both the police and the local donors. She noted that the experience was much more than just a shopping trip for her due to past experiences.
“I’m grateful for it,” she said. “This is cool. I don’t trust grown men or officers, except for Officer Burwell and (Chief Marc) Rodriguez. This can be a good opportunity to get over some trauma. I’m grateful that I get to come out here.”
Burwell said he hopes to continue Shop with a Cop in Galion for as long as possible.
“As long as the funds are there and the community’s here to help, we’re going to spend our time to help these kids,” Burwell said.