“Did you stretch this morning?” Westminster Officer Travis Hartman asked the 10-year-old. “I have a feeling we’re going to be doing some running.”
Jonathan Rodriguez skipped the morning plyometrics and instead stuffed an Egg McMuffin in his pocket and sipped a Coca-Cola.
He was ready to go.
Rodriguez was one of 40 children to make a mad dash for gifts at Walmart on Saturday as part of the annual Shop with a Cop.
For the last 12 years, members of the Westminster and Fountain Valley police departments have been volunteering to take dozens of children from local schools and the Boys & Girls Club holiday shopping.
“This event shows these children not only are these officers out there chasing bad guys, they also reach out to the community,” said Jeovan Davila, area director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Westminster. “It’s just an amazing event and every one of these kids is so deserving.”
The children are hand-picked based on their participation in school and their family’s need for a little extra holiday cheer.
Each child is given a $100 gift card for shopping.
Rodriguez didn’t know his Saturday would start with a chance to cross some items off his Christmas list.
“We didn’t tell him he was picked for this,” said his brother Rodolfo, 21. “Every Saturday he has church school so when we came here first he was really surprised.”
The annual shopping spree started with a McDonald’s breakfast and a visit from Santa Claus.
Instead of a sleigh and eight flying reindeer, Santa arrived atop the West County SWAT Bearcat led by a police motorcade.
Which, arguably, is a much cooler way to travel.
Children visited with Santa to rattle off their wish lists before heading in to the store.
Rodriguez had a short list: “I want Empire Monopoly and a Penny Board (a type of small skateboard),” the Fryberger Elementary student said. “I love math and I like to play outside.”
Rodriguez grabbed a gingerbread house kit, a NERF gun, the Monopoly game, a Crayola marker maker, pencils (for all that math he loves) and water speakers.
His family was also given a $100 grocery gift card.
“This gives us a chance to get out here, play with these kids and show them we’re not a bunch of scary police officers,” Hartman said. “Most of us are really just a bunch of goofballs.”
Some officers proved Hartman’s point when they took a break from shopping to engage in some Walmart shopping cart racing.
Sgt. Cameron Knauerhaze and Officer Paul Walker jumped in the carts while two children stood behind them ready to push.
Off they went — sort of.
Walker’s cart got stuck on a retail display so Knauerhaze blew past him with ease to win the race.
“This happens every year,” Hartman said as he watched the officers climb in to the carts.
Hartman and Rodriguez checked out — their bill totaling a little more than $132. The Westminster Police Officer’s Association picked up the extra cost.
Rodriguez thanked Hartman with a shy smile before leaving with his family and heading to his weekly Saturday religion class.
Rodriguez didn’t get his Penny Board that day (Walmart was fresh out of the in-demand toy) but said he’ll wait to see if the Big Guy delivers it on Christmas Eve.
He assured Santa he’s been good this year and always completes his homework.
“I asked him for it,” he said. “I hope he brings it.”