By Alisa Brantz
The Sheridan Press
SHERIDAN — It was 7 a.m. Saturday morning when the first bus full of excited Sheridan children unloaded at the local Kmart to kick off the eighth annual Shop with a Cop.
Shop with a Cop takes local children shopping for gifts for their parents. Each child is escorted through the store by a member of local law enforcement and the gift is purchased by donations given to the People Assistance Food Bank. Parents can wait in the dining area enjoying free breakfast or sign their kids up for the free bus pick-up but cannot help them shop.
Dan Lick, founder of the event as well as the food bank, sees the goal of the program as two-fold.
The main purpose is to provide children with a positive interaction with law enforcement, to show them that officers are an attribute not a threat to our community. The second is to teach the kids that it is rewarding to give to others without the expectation of getting something in return.
Lick says the whole event started by accident.
“I was driving a church bus for Joy Junction one day and a 5-year-old boy sitting behind me saw me wave to (Sheriff) Dave (Hofmeier) and asked me why I did that,” Lick recalled. “He said ‘Cops are no good. All they do is arrest my parents.’ That shocked me and we came up with this program that Christmas.”
In its first year, Lick planned to take 50 kids shopping, and had the funds lined up to do so, but 62 showed up.
It’s always been the policy that reservations are preferred, however, day-of drop offs are welcome, and no child will leave without a gift. The first year this policy left them with a $497 unpaid bill, but not for long.
“I was walking through Walmart and some guy asked me if I was Dan Lick,” Lick said. “He handed me a check for $500 and said ‘God told me to give this to you’ and just like that the bill was paid.”
This year they anticipated 250 young attendees and had a fundraising goal of $6,000.
Like with each year prior, the constant flow of shoppers make it look like the final count may be higher than anticipated.
However, unlike in past years, this is the first year the team has headed into the event already having met their financial goals, thanks mostly to one anonymous individual.
“I went on KOTA to talk about the event,” Lick explained, “and a man who saw me on the show stopped by the food bank and gave me $5,000.”
Lick said he had never met the man before or again, and he did not leave his name.
Prior years have required a dinner at the Palace and other fundraising efforts to pay the final bill but this year the food bank was able to direct their attention elsewhere.
“We really need a new building,” Lick said. “We’ve got roof leaks and are in bad shape.”
Luckily, that is about all the food bank needs right now. Donations have been plentiful this year.
In fact, just one day before Shop with a Cop approximately 15,000 pounds of food were given away for Christmas dinners, including a turkey and a ham for each family.
“I’m just glad this continues to work out,” he said. “This all was an accident but God keeps pushing us forward.”
Lick also describes the inception of the food bank as an accident, which started in 2000 when Safeway was going to throw away food so he had them leave it with him instead.
What started as a few tables on the oversized porch of his business grew to a 2.5 car garage full of cans and then moved to the current building, which was donated by Holiday Gas and costs the food bank $1 a year, plus insurance.
Lick’s remarkable spirit is no accident and is evident in every interaction he has. Interviewing him battles constant interruptions including several hugs and jokes from each person walking by but mostly from the joyous outbursts of Lick.
“Hey where’s my breakfast?” he yells toward one child. “Did you get me something good?” he directed to the next. And the children fed off of his energy throughout the event.
One shopping minor, Nicole Fauber, a 10-year-old who attends Sagebrush Elementary School, was all smiles as she enjoyed her omelet pizza with her parents after she finished shopping.
Fauber attended for the first time this year after her parents signed her up.
She started the morning not knowing what to get for her parents, but with a little help from her cop partner and his wife wound up with one great gift for each of them.
When asked what Christmas means to her, Fauber didn’t have to think for a minute.
“It’s about happiness and family,” she said, “and getting presents for people that they will really love.”
Fauber also added she wasn’t the least bit scared or uncomfortable with the police officer, though she was glad his wife stayed with them to help find something for her mom.
Several officers and their significant others participated in the event, many lined up at the front door eagerly awaiting their next child.
Sgt. Allen Thompson returned this season for his sixth year, noting that once you get started in the program it keeps you coming back.
“The thing about it that’s important from a law enforcement standpoint,” Thompson said, “is it gives us a really positive interaction with the community that we aren’t otherwise afforded between our everyday calls.”
He also has a personal connection to the event, as a member of Sheridan and a father.
“I have children and I’m trying to instill in them the idea that Christmas is about somebody else and not you,” he said, “and just how rewarding it is to make someone else happy at Christmas.”