The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 13, 2012

Officers take kids shopping


Staff Writer

TARBORO — Eight-year-old Dylan Hoggard of Tarboro went Christmas shopping with a Tarboro Police Department officer Wednesday afternoon. Hoggard had $150 to spend at Wal-Mart, but he spent only part of that on himself.

“He was so sweet. He got those two little [Nerf] guns and then he started looking for his siblings,” said Lt. Bill Braswell, Hoggard’s “Shop with a Cop” buddy.

“He even bought for his soon-to-be stepsister and stepbrother and sister. He thought of everybody. Most kids don’t even do that,” said Hoggard’s mother, April Hollis.

Hoggard surprised his 9-year-old sister, Rebecca Hoggard, with a Barbie.

“It was cool,” she said, with a smile on her face. Hollis said the gifts will “help out a lot with everything” this Christmas season.

Hoggard, who is a second grader at Stocks Elementary School, was one of 10 local children who “shopped with a cop” Wednesday afternoon. This is the first year the police department has participated in the event.

“It gives people who may be having a difficult year the opportunity to bless their children with a wonderful Christmas,” said Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams. “The names came from the Department of Social Services (DSS), because we really wanted to make sure the students we were going to select were really going to benefit from the process.”

“This might be the only Christmas they have,” Braswell added.

Two brothers and a sister were also among the shoppers. Raymond Rivera, a seventh-grader at Martin Middle School, picked out Halo video game action figures, a skateboard, helmet, shoulder pads and knee pads.

“He‘s a good kid. I just enjoyed seeing him have fun,” said Renee Hedgepeth of DSS, Rivera’s shopping buddy. “It [Shop with a Cop] takes a lot of the stress off the mom and dad. It allows them to be able to have a good Christmas while maintaining their household.”

Meanwhile, Rivera’s sister Tisha Serrano, a fifth-grader at Pattillo Elmentary School, was picking out colored pencils, a sketchpad, hair bows and clothes.

“She was able to push the cart and look at stuff just for her,” said Julie Braxton, wife of Sgt. Al Braxton. “It’s heartwarming. It’s touching.”

 “I felt free,” Serrano said. She couldn’t recall a time she had had a shopping expedition like Wednesday’s.

“She brought her notebook and made her a list,” said Sgt. Al Braxton, shopping buddy of Serrano’s 8-year-old brother Alex Serrano, a student at Stocks. Power Rangers and a Beyblade extreme (toy) top system were Alex’s items of choice.

“It was fun,” he said at the end of his shopping trip, while twirling a light-up toy sword in the air.

Williams declared “Shop with a Cop” a success. He said he appreciated Wal-Mart’s donation of $1,500 for the event.

“My major push is all about community policing and community involvement and this is just one of those avenues the department can give back,” Williams said. “The officers know the kids and the kids know the officers and that’s what it’s all about.”