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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009


"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

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Shop with a cop -- 39 kids, 50 cops and Santa arriving from the sky

THIS IS THE ONE!: Officer Rob Johnson from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources looks on as Calob points Saturday to a yellow remote-controlled bulldozer toy in Kmart. Calob and Officer Johnson were part of Kmart's annual Shop with a Cop program where kids are chosen by the Division of Family and Child Services to be recipients of $100 each to spend on their families for Christmas. / Photo by Brittny Goodsell Jones

By Brittny Goodsell Jones

December 10, 2008 | LOGAN -- The sun was still sleeping when 5-year-old Calob was escorted by a police officer, in a car with flashing lights, to the parking lot of Kmart in Logan. The temperature was about 32 degrees and Calob was dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a red coat. His green name tag hung around his neck.

As Officer Rob Johnson and Calob walked to join a crowd in front of the retail store, the droning from a far-off helicopter was heard. People started pointing to the sky and saying, "Look, Santa's coming."

Calob turned to Officer Johnson and said, "Maybe he came on a bird!"

Before the helicopter hit the ground, Calob showed a passer-by his Band-aid covered finger. Then he said he wanted a remote-controlled airplane from the store today. Then he turned to a woman and said, "See where those cones are out there, that's where a helicopter comes in."

Orange cones were set in the middle of Kmart's parking lot to mark Santa's helicopter landing. Calob, along with 39 other kids and at least 50 cops, watched as the helicopter made its way down into the parking lot, blowing cold air onto everyone. Calob shivered in his coat and smiled.

Even though the crowd started cheering when Santa stepped off the chopper, Calob seemed skeptical.

"That's a fake Santa because he doesn't have a pack on him," Calob said.

Shop With a Cop happened Dec. 6 at the Logan Kmart. More than 50 police cars with flashing lights and sirens pulled into the parking lot one after another at 8 a.m. Saturday. Each car had a cop and a kid inside. The annual fundraising and shopping event is designed for kids to buy gifts for themselves and their families. The kids are mostly found through the Division of Family and Child Services.

Relda Sandgren, Kmart employee who has been in charge of Shop with a Cop for 16 years, took charge of the program after Kmart dropped it due to bankruptcy problems. More than 16 years ago, Sandgren said each kid typically got $20 to buy gifts. Since then, the average amount has grown to $100.

Chief Kim Hawkes, of North Park Police Department, has been helping with Shop with a Cop for 15 years. He said donations are made by Cache Valley residents during the year. The amount raised determines the amount of kids that can be picked for Shop With a Cop.

By the end of October, Sandgren said she only had enough money for 28 kids. During the application process to choose the kids, Sandgren said more money came in and she was able to bump the number of kids up to 41.

Calob already has a plan on how to spend his $100. Before buying his sister a doll with a stroller, his dad a sweatshirt and his mom a Christmas angel, Calob headed to the toy aisle. He wanted a remote-controlled helicopter.

With the help of Officer Johnson, conservation officer from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Calob looked at airplanes, dump trucks and bulldozers. At one time, a yellow remote-controlled bulldozer went into the cart. He saw a red fire truck that flashed and wailed but he passed it by because there wasn't a ladder on the fire truck. He was serious about his choices.

Officer Johnson, who has been involved with Shop with a Cop for a few years, said kids usually want everything and grab the first thing they see.

Calob was different. Calob's toy search was interrupted by a cart that needed to get by. He stepped back and waved the cart on with his hand. After the cart passed, he found another toy he liked but this one was $60.

Officer Johnson looked down at him and said, "This toy might be too expensive, bud. We still have to buy gifts for your family."

The 5-year-old simply responded "OK," and set the toy back on the shelf.

Learning about money isn't the only thing these kids gain. Sandgren said the biggest lesson kids take from Shop With a Cop is that police officers and deputies are the good guys. Some of these kids have had or could have negative experiences with cops, Sandgren said, and it's important for kids to know that experiences with cops can be positive.

"When you start off in the morning, the kids kind of tolerate the officer but by the end of the day, they are all over them," she said.

Calob said he liked Officer Johnson because "he let me get a lot of stuff." Calob stuck close to Officer Johnson and ran down the aisles with him. When Officer Johnson asked him what kind of sweatshirts his dad liked, Calob said. "He likes ones with skeletons." Calob pointed to a cop once and said, "There's a cop." When Officer Johnson asked him what movies his mom liked, Calob said, "The Incredible Hulk."

Eventually, the yellow bulldozer went back on the shelf after Calob found a remote-controlled airplane. He kept pushing the button inside the plastic casing trying to see if the airplane could really fly out of the box. Calob found another helicopter toy that he wanted but decided later that blue was the best color for that toy instead of red. Officer Johnson walked him back to the toy aisle to exchange the colors. Calob kept asking Officer Johnson, "What is your favorite that I choose?"

When Calob lined up to pay, the cashier helped Calob get his presents out of the cart. When she saw the remote-controlled helicopter, she said, "Oh, cool, and then you can remember how Santa flew in to see you."

Calob smiled at the cashier, looked off in the distance as if he remembered Santa's helicopter drop this morning, then smiled down at his toy. He asked Officer Johnson if he could carry the toy instead of putting it back in the cart. Calob carried his remote-controlled helicopter to the wrapping center at the side of Kmart where it was wrapped for his Christmas morning, a Christmas morning that will be memorable because of the generosity of residents around Cache Valley.


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