Four-year-old Larry Hyde picks up toy after toy, examining each colorful package, inspecting the merits of every action figure. Hugging a plush dog with realistic barking sounds and light up collar, he beams, swiveling to drop the canine in the shopping cart.
“This one?” asks mom, Angela Hyde. Larry puts hand to chin in a thoughtful daze. He shakes his head, shelves the battery-operated animal and skips down the aisle of the department store, sneakers squeaking.
Pushing the cart behind him, Angela walks with Deputy Janna French, and the two share a laugh. They laugh because the kid’s indecision is endearing. They laugh because kids make you forget what’s bad, and laughter feels good. Laughter is good like medicine, folks say, paraphrasing scripture. Laughter is all that’s left when someone’s down on his or her luck. Angela, who just recently spent three months in jail and together with her husband has been trying to make ends meet for their family, knows this all too well.
To help folks like the Hydes who’ve struggled recently to provide for their children, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office partnered Tuesday night with other law enforcement agencies to hold the 22nd annual Cops & Kids Shopping Event at Walmart on Market Place Boulevard in Cum-ming. The effort — organized by the Sgt. D.P. Land Memorial Lodge No. 82 of the Fraternal Order of Police — provides a $150 shopping spree to the children of local families in need.
Eric Silveus, president of FOP Lodge No. 82, said the event “brings out the true meaning Christmas — being able to give back to our community and help people who are less fortunate than us.”
Silveus said that while many this time of year are worried about whether they’ll get the newest smart phone or be able to find a bigger TV for their living room “a lot of these parents out there are worried about how they’re going to afford to buy their child a winter jacket or be able to buy them one or two toys for Christmas … sometimes, we take the true spirit of giving for granted.”
The annual shopping event, Silveus said, also allows families and young people to see law en-forcement officials in a positive situation.
“We meet people often during the worst times in their lives,” Silveus said. “Whether it’s an acci-dent, a domestic at home or someone getting seriously injured, so it’s nice for our deputies to be with these children and their families one-on-one in a nice, happy environment so they can see them in a positive light.”
Silveus added that families qualified for the event by either getting referrals from the Forsyth County School System or being identified by deputies on patrol who recognized that there was a financial need for a family with children.
Tuesday night’s event, Silveus said, was “sadly” one of the biggest in decades, with nearly 150 children shopping with parents.
“There’s just a lot of people who need this right now,” he said, adding that support to make Cops & Kids happen comes from local businesses and residents of Forsyth County.
Sheriff Ron Freeman, who showed up Tuesday night to shop with a local family, said because Forsyth County is such an affluent community “it’s really easy to overlook those that have less or are in need, and this is a fantastic way we at the sheriff’s office get to partner with the Fraternal Order of Police … and be able to give back to those families that we see in need.”
Added Freeman: “Being able to light up a kid’s face for Christmas — if that can’t make you feel warm and good inside, something’s wrong with you.”
Deputy Nathan Burks walked the aisles Tuesday with a family as well.
“My Christmases were pretty good growing up,” Burks said. “I was pretty fortunate, so it’s nice being able to give back. I’m very thankful to have an opportunity to do something like this.
Deputy Michael Jones, who shopped Tuesday with the Spruill Family, said he too enjoys being able to participate.
“I just like being able to help these kids,” Jones said. “My wife and I always try to do stuff to help kids … it’s nice being able to see these kids enjoying themselves.”
He watched as Philip Spruill, 10, and his mother, Katrina Spruill, perused the aisles along with brother, Colin, 18.
Just a few feet away, the Hyde family shopped for four-year-old Larry and his sister, Amber, 14.
Larry’s indecisive toy hunt continued as Amber selected an acoustic guitar, placing it in the shopping cart.
The expression on their mother, Angela’s, face was one of absolute happiness.
“I am so thankful for this,” Angela said. “I was in jail, and I won’t go into detail but I do know Deputy French.”
She gestured toward the policewoman who shopped beside her. “She’s a great, hardworking deputy,” Angela said. “If you need her, she’s there.”
Added Angela: “After what happened we had to start over as a family … and we’ve barely had enough lately to pay the rent, so this has been a great blessing.”