Farmington hosts one of the country's largest 'Shop with a Cop' -

Farmington hosts one of the country's largest 'Shop with a Cop' events

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The Shop with a Cop event in Farmington. Credit: KMOV The Shop with a Cop event in Farmington. Credit: KMOV

One of the largest "Shop with a Cop" events in the nation is in Farmington, Missouri. 

Police departments throughout St. Francois County came together Friday morning at the Walmart in Farmington to help more than 500 children pick out Christmas gifts. It was the 25th year of the event. 

Each officer was paired with a child as they weaved their carts through aisles looking for toys within a $100.00 tax-free budget. The St. Francois County Sheriff's Association raises the money to make the event possible throughout the whole year through fundraisers, raffles and private donations. 

The kids that participate are selected by their school counselors. They are underprivileged and at-risk youth who do not normally get presents during the holidays. Even if some of the kids go over budget, some of the cops let them by paying out of their own pockets. 

"This is not just a day of getting presents, but also getting a friendship between an officer and a child.  I can't really put it in words. It's very humbling," said Officer Jeff Kostedt, with the Farmington Police Department.

This experience comes full circle for Kostedt.

"My mom was a single parent, so obviously times were hard. She somehow got me into this, and at that point, I was afraid of cops," said Kostedt.

He was 7-years-old when he participated in this exact same "Shop with a Cop" event and bonded with an officer who helped him pick out gifts.

"It meant a lot to show me that I have nothing to fear, that they're here to help me. They obviously influenced me a lot since I'm not wearing the uniform," said Kostedt. 

The goal for law enforcement is to bond with the kids so they have their trust when they are in a moment of crisis.

"I want to influence them to be anything they want to be," said Kostedt.

All the money raised by the St. Francois County Sheriff's Association throughout the year stays in the county. 

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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