OTTAWA — Eleven-year-old Talan Siefker purchased toys Saturday at the Ottawa Walmart for himself and his siblings for Christmas with the help of Putnam County Sheriff Deputy Eric Vanwagner.
Siefer was one of 19 children who participated in the 3rd annual Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and Putnam County Police Chief Association Shop With A Cop for children ages 5 through 12.
Vanwagner said the event is a way for law enforcement and the children to become better acquainted with one another.
“He’s buying for not only himself but for his brothers and sisters. For those who are unfortunate, it is nice to be able to help out anyway I can,” Vanwagner said.
Siefer loaded a shopping cart with a Nerf gun and Pokemon cards for himself and Barbie toys and Legos for his brother.
“I like to be able to shop for my family and that I get to spend Christmas with my family,” Siefker said.
Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said the program was made possible from funds raised from the Sheriff’s Office “Running with the Law” Triathlon held in August at Kalida Park.
Prior to the shopping experience, youth met at the sheriff’s department to get their photos taken with law enforcement next to a Christmas tree. They then were able to ride in law enforcement vehicles and were escorted to Walmart with police sirens.
Each child received a $125 gift card to Walmart to purchase toys for themselves and family members. The youth were nominated by teachers and principals to participate in Shop With A Cop.
“For some of the children, this is the best Christmas they get. It’s nice to see smiles on their face,” Siefker said.
Youth and law enforcement went to the Educational Service Center after shopping to have lunch, crafts and a visit from Santa. Students from Kalida’s Tannis School of Dance gift wrapped the children’s presents and purchased presents for the children.
Sheriff Deputy Troy Stevenson and his K9 Nero helped Zahnder Boggs, 9, look for presents for Boggs and his family.
“The kids look up to us as role models, and it’s good for us to get out in the community,” Stevenson said. He said he hopes the interaction lets the kids know the police are there to help them.
Boggs got a drone for himself and a phone case for his sister.
“I liked riding in the police car with the K9 and getting to meet all the officers,” Boggs said.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.