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Giving Santa a little competition

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joe Gabbard keeps a running tab for Dezarae Pringle, 8, while shopping with her and her mother, Amoretta Pringle, on Wednesday morning during Shop With a Cop at Walmart.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

The annual Shop With a Cop program for children in need of better times produced the Star Wars T-shirt and video game that Stetson Worley wanted.

But the 10-year-old Florida Mesa Elementary School fourth-grader seemed just as eager to talk about his athletic accomplishments.

“I’m going to be in the newspaper just like Tyler,” Stetson said animatedly as he explored the aisles at Walmart choosing gifts, accompanied by his mother, Judy Crosley.

About 100 kids were allowed to spend $125 each Wednesday during a shopping spree at Walmart. Each was accompanied by a local officer.

Tyler turned out to be Tyler Worley, the Durango High School football running back lost for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

“I play football. I’m a quarterback,” Stetson said. “I’m in baseball, soccer and karate.”

Crosley, head cashier at Home Depot, affirmed the statement: “He’s a busy child.”

Shop With a Cop began locally around 1994, said Durango Police Department Sgt. Geary Parsons, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police (Lodge 8) that sponsors the program. He started as secretary/treasurer in 1997 and took over the presidency in 2009.

Shop With a Cop is funded by donations from businesses, trusts and individuals, Parsons said. Income runs about $12,000 to $13,000 annually. The Methodist Thrift Shop, Walmart and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad are regular donors.

If money is left, it’s carried over to the next year.

Each child – there can be more than one per family – can choose $125 in gifts, about $75 for clothing, $50 for toys.

A police officer from Durango or Ignacio, a La Plata County Sheriff’s deputy, a Bayfield marshal’s office representative or a Colorado State Patrol trooper accompanied each family Wednesday to keep track of spending.

Families are recommended by the La Plata County Department of Human Services from among those who receive financial or family services or have foster children, said department Director Lezlie Mayer.

“It’s an amazing program,” Mayer said. “It does an outstanding job of helping kids have a wonderful Christmas.”

Joseph Williams, 6, in kindergarten at Sunnyside Elementary School, selected a kit for balloon toys and a Nerf gun that shoots foam pellets to go along with the pants and boots his mom, Diana Williams, picked out.

“A nephew of mine has a Nerf gun,” said Diana Williams, a second-year senior at Fort Lewis College majoring in social studies. “Now, Joseph can do battle.”

Latoya Mestas was pushing son Mario Peña, 3, in a shopping cart loaded with treasures under the watchful eyes of son Marcos Martinez, 10, and daughter Ana Vazquez, 7.

Marcos chose a video game and a Nerf bow-and-arrow set.

Ana had her heart set on a Furby Boom, but word leaked that Santa Claus might be good for the furry electronic toy, said Mestas, who received her licensed practical nurse degree from Southwest Colorado College two weeks ago and has lined up a job.

daler@durangoherald.com

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