GREAT FALLS — Ten-year-old Oliver Deighan of Floweree is standing in front of the Subway inside the Walmart on Smelter Avenue patiently waiting for his heroes to arrive. "They’re all very nice because they give this stuff for us children,” Deighan said.
Moments later, the heroes arrived: fully uniformed Chouteau County Sheriff’s deputies, 9-1-1 communications officers, a Fort Benton police officer, and a detention officer ready for a day of Christmas shopping
It’s all part of the annual “Shop With A Sheriff” event, created and hosted by the Chouteau County Sheriff’s Department. It’s a chance for underprivileged children to pair up with law enforcement officers for a $100 shopping spree at Wal-Mart.
The child selections were made by staff and administrators at schools in Chouteau County. Selections were based on the child who they felt could use a pick me up or a bit of extra help during the Christmas season.
And in 2020, it’s never been more important. “In situations and times like this, the more normal you can make a child’s life the better it is for them,” said Chouteau County Sheriff Vern Burdick.
Oliver was paired with Burdick and they spent the next hour picking out clothes, toys and more. “I don’t have that much stuff that’s comfortable and that much stuff that’s warm,” Deighan said. “So, I wanted to get that stuff so I could keep warm and not be cold.” He also received a soccer ball to replace a deflated one.
Elsewhere in the store, deputy Seth Broesder was paired with 9-year-old Faith which required him to step outside of his comfort zone a little bit.
“I got four little boys, ages four through 14 at home,” Broesder said. “I’ve kind of gotten to be an old hand at buying boy toys. So today I was paired with a sweet little girl and it was a nice change for me.”
Broesder and Faith picked out press-on nails, shoes, socks and various other necessities.
A few aisles away, six-year old Carla Allery couldn’t wait to pick out shoes with Fort Benton police officer Alec Rosipal. “Shoes! Let’s go get some,” she exclaimed. It took her awhile to find a pair that she didn’t already have that would fit, but the smile never left her face and Rosipal never left her side.
The event is a chance to break down barriers between between officers and the communities they serve - and the benefits go both ways. “We see it out on the streets, everybody is kind of struggling and pushing and so a chance to go have fun, and be around these kids is great,” Broesder said. “For us it’s a chance to renew our inner child, because their energy is contagious.”
Ten children were paired with law enforcement professionals for the event. After the shopping, the participants were treated to a pizza party before heading back to school.