December 5, 2021

Kids get to shop with a cop

Children facing hard times enjoy Christmas spree with police

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Aubrey Bell, 13, picks out a dog toy with Cortland Police Officer James Badger Tuesday at Walmart during the department’s Shop with a Cop event.

Noah Cole was 5 years old when he and his family were informed by doctors that he had muscular dystrophy and wouldn’t live past 16.

On Tuesday, two days before he turns 21, he was buying Christmas gifts at Walmart during the Cortland Police Department’s Shop with a Cop event.

“Getting out to meet the police, it’s nice,” Cole said. “It’s a good way to bridge the gap between the community.”

Cole was one of five kids taking who, with their families, got a tour of the Cortland Police Department before going to Walmart and to spend $125 each, said Cortland Community Oriented Policing Officer Jesse Abbott.

Cole spent his money on a portable record player and Metallica and Creedence Clearwater Revival records, in vinyl.

The children and their families then got pizza and wings at the police station.

“The 10 children we chose maybe have fallen on some hard times throughout the year, whether it’s personal health issues or the loss of a sibling. So we wanted to cheer up their holiday and maybe make it a little easier for their parents and their families when it comes to Christmas shopping,” Abbott said.

“The thing with my position is to build relationships between the police department and the community and we’ve done that through numerous events. What sets this one aside from the others is that it even teaches children to purchase things for other people, so it’s a little life lesson as well,” he said.

Five more children will go shopping Monday.

Abbott said he was inspired by similar programs at police departments across the state and wanted one in Cortland. He posted on social media in November asking for submissions for children who “may have fallen on some hard times,” the post said.

A committee of police officers went through several dozen nominations before choosing 10, Abbott said.

Funding for the program came from the police department’s 5k race in September, he said. Pontillo’s Pizzeria donated pizza and P&C Fresh donated drinks.

Cole shopped with Officer Jeffrey Fitts, who has known Cole for 13 years since Fitts’s wife, Vanessa Fitts, taught Cole at Barry Elementary School, Fitts said. The two grew to know each other more at events hosted by the police for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, similar to muscular dystrophy, Fitts said.

“It’s nice to see him develop through the years,” Fitts said. “Even though he’s had such an adversity, he’s still always fun-loving, happy and funny.”

Four-year-old Trystyn Stone has also seen his share of adversity.

“He has tubes in his ears, he’s had surgery on his neck to remove some acid, he has a speech impairment,” said his mother, Monica Moore. “He’s in occupational therapy and he’s going to an orthopedic” for problems with one of his legs.

Trystyn, who was paired with Officer Pat O’Donnell, bought PJ Mask toys for himself and a unicorn and Minnie Mouse toys for his sister.

“It’s been helpful because he can actually get out in the community and work with the police officer and get something for Christmas,” Moore said.

On a scale of one to 10, how much fun did Stone have?

“10!” he said.