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An officer peruses the aisles of Walmart with a local kid during the annual Shop with a Cop event in Rexburg.

After a slightly modified event in 2020 due to Covid, this year’s Shop with a Cop is back to normal in the Upper Valley and Teton County officers are excited to participate.

The event, put on by the Rexburg Police Department, brings in law enforcement officers from Teton, Madison, Clark, Jefferson, and Fremont counties to shop with children whose families may be struggling.

Deputy Blake Fullmer has been Teton County’s Shop with a Cop liaison for over ten years.

“It’s just an amazing experience,” he said. “I love doing it.”

In the run-up to Shop with a Cop, Fullmer has been talking with local school counselors and other patrol deputies, gathering the names of families and kids who might benefit from a special Christmas.

“The school counselors always have a good idea of who may be in need, and deputies, when they’re out and about, they might interact with families, so they all submit names,” he explained.

He and the other department liaisons meet to go through the names and narrow them down based on a set of criteria to a final list of kids, around 65 total this year. Depending on who accepts the invitation, three or four Teton County families will attend Shop with a Cop.

Early in the morning on Dec. 11, officers will meet with families at the Rexburg Tabernacle, and every cop will pair off with a participant and make a festive procession to breakfast at McDonald’s. The kids get to ride in patrol cars and play with the lights and sirens.

“It’s cool to see the cars going through Rexburg,” Fullmer said. “People will get up early to watch, you’ll have a pretty good crowd out.”

Last year, social distancing precautions meant no kids riding in cars or going into the store to shop. This year it’s back to business as usual. After breakfast the whole gang cruises over to Walmart. Kids have their gift cards and wish lists for family members.

“We get to help them pick out gifts for themselves and for their family,” Fullmer said. “It can really make a difference for a household.”

If any participants are in need of a new coat or boots, Walmart donates those items. Volunteers wrap all the gifts, then the cops take the kids back and load up their families with the fixings for a cheerful Christmas.

Any local officers who aren’t on duty are welcome to join; this year Teton is sending around five people.

The program is funded through private donations, and Fullmer said he wants the sheriff’s office to be more involved in fundraising in this community next year.

“It’s nice to increase awareness of the program here, because it does benefit families in our community,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to give back like this.”