McHENRY – Nine-year-old Jack pondered his sock choices, ultimately reaching for a set of three pair with white tops and neon orange and green patches below the feet.
Officer Brandy Wenrich of the Johnsburg Police Department looked them over, eyed Jack’s feet, and gently persuaded her temporary charge to go up a size.
“They’ll last longer,” she said. “You don’t want them so tight.”
Jack, who, like other children in this story is identified by first name only to protect his privacy, was among 79 officer-child pairings at the Johnsburg Walmart early Sunday for McHenry County Police Charities’ Shop with A Cop event. Another 120 pairs shopped at the Crystal Lake Walmart, said Aimee Knop, a McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy and community relations coordinator.
“We receive referrals from social service providers throughout the county,” Knop said in explaining how the 5- to 15-year-old boys and girls were selected. “We serve those who are the neediest of the needy as well as those who could use positive reinforcement with law enforcement interaction.”
Each police agency in the county, as well as state troopers and the McHenry County Correctional Bureau, was represented.
Before selecting socks, Jack already had scored a Mega Nerf Gun, a Lego City helicopter and a pair of camouflage-patterned winter boots. Each child was able to spend $150, plus pick out a hat, coat, mittens and snow boots.
Officer Wenrich, who has three children of her own, said she was pleased to see Jack select toys that build hand-eye coordination.
“Maybe one day you’ll be an engineer,” she said.
“I’m going to be in the Army,” Jack replied before trying on a pair of warm, black gloves.
Harvard police dispatcher Mike Vest was very impressed when his partner for the morning, 13-year-old Adolfo bee-lined for the book section. In his cart Adolfo had placed copies of “Ender’s Shadow” and “Rebel Spring,” as well as a Nintendo video game and more.
“I’m looking for clothes now,” Adolfo said, adding that the spree would not be complete until he’d picked out a gift for his mother.
“It’s fun to see the kids’ faces light up when we walk in the store and you tell them that [they can choose from] everything between all four walls,” said Vest, who, like the other officers, arrived at the store before 7 a.m.
Funding comes from donations, events and the hard work of supporting entities such as the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce’s MC3 business referral group.
“Our group wanted to give back,” said Wayne Seely of MC3 as he helped bag participants’ purchases. “We raised about $14,400 this year.”
After shopping, participants also were treated to breakfast at either D’Andrea’s Banquets in Crystal Lake or 31 North in McHenry.
Five-year-old Rose of Richmond looked forward to breakfast as she surveyed her morning’s treasures, a pair of Hello Kitty boots visible at the top of a well-filled black bag. “My favorite thing I picked was the Leapfrog games,” she said.
“We picked wisely, didn’t we?” Richmond police officer Pam Hewett said.