COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Thursday afternoon, law enforcement officers, 50 children, parents and other caretakers gathered inside the ice rink building at the Columbus Civic Center for an event called Cops, Kids and Christmas. This annual event is run by Karl F. Eidam Lodge 9, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Outside, various law enforcement vehicles from all over the area were parked in a line ready to take children shopping at the Whittlesey Boulevard Walmart in Columbus.

Sgt. Kelly Phillips, FOP chairperson and Columbus Police Department employee, said 20 of the children participating in the event were from the local Boys & Girls Club.

“The other 30 are nominated by officers in the area and all over the Chattahoochee Valley,” she said. “We’ve had folks nominated out of Phenix City, out of Harris County, Waverly Hall, lots of kiddos nominated from Columbus proper.”

Above, Officer Nikki Martin, left, and Officer Sandra Lemunyon, right, both of Muscogee County School Police, post with the Grinch.

Phillips explained that throughout the year, local law enforcement officers come in contact with children, generally at crime scenes.

“And these children have been affected by crime in one way or another,” she said. “And we want to give them a positive interaction with our law enforcement as well as make their holiday a little brighter. So it’s kind of a two-fold benefit for us.”

She estimated that about 75 to 80 police officers would show up for the event. She said each child would get paired one-on-one with a police officer to go shopping with.

“They get to ride in the convoy all the way up there, blue lights and sirens,” Phillips said. “They get to play with the lights and sirens and get on the loudspeaker and shout hello to everybody who’s standing along Veterans Parkway.”

Phillips says the event winds up being like a parade.

Above, a line of law enforcement vehicles awaits police officers and children to go Christmas shopping at Walmart.

“The FOP lodge is actually providing the funding for it,” she said.

She said that the event would boost the morale of participating officers, explaining that they tend to see people on the worst days of their lives. She said that at the event, children would be happy to see them.

Jessica Blanton, 11, came to the event with her mother. She said she looked forward to shopping with a police officer and planned on getting “a big set of toys” for her brothers.

Three children with the East Columbus Boys & Girls Club shared their shopping plans.

Brianna Maxwell, 10, said she looked forward to “having fun.” She said she would buy her family LED lights.

“Happy New Year and Merry Christmas,” she said.

Jamiyah Thomas, 7, said she planned to buy an Elf on the Shelf and gifts for her family.

“I hope everybody have a good Christmas, and I hope they don’t be bad,” she said.

Jordan Culliver, 10, waited patiently to be interviewed. He said he looked forward to buying his family “lots of gifts.”