Nearly two-dozen uniformed police officers walked the aisles of Severn's Walmart on Saturday morning helping 62 kids shop for Christmas presents.
"I've participated every year since I joined the department," Annapolis officer first class Shomar Johnson said. "I wanted to do something to give back to the community."
Shop with a Cop is an annual holiday tradition organized by the Annapolis Optimist Club, said club President Glen Rotner. The event started in 2004 with just 12 kids and each year more police departments and more children participate.
School guidance counselors help select the kids. Then, they are paired with an officer who helps them spend a $100 gift card at Walmart, Rotner said. This year officers from Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, the Sheriff's Department and the Department of Natural Resources participated.
"These kids are not selfish. They usually buy for their families before they buy for themselves," Johnson said. "Most times they don't have any money left over for themselves. I've seen a lot of officers, myself included, give them money to buy for themselves."
This year he guided 8-year-old Steffan Johnson (no relation) around the Walmart in Severn.
Steffan, who attends Georgetown East Elementary, has five older sisters, but most of what he picked out was for himself. He gravitated towards Spider Man gear and Legos.
The bill totaled around $110, and Johnson reached into his own wallet rather than asking Steffan to put something back.
Steffan said his favorite purchase was a disposable camera. He started snapping pictures as soon as the pair made it through the checkout—including snapping several of Johnson.
After the shopping spree, officers escorted the children to Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Annapolis and Glen Burnie where they enjoyed a free meal while volunteers helped the kids wrap their presents.