‘Christmas in July’: Kids get a jump on holiday joy

All eyes were turned skyward last Saturday as a crowd of children and families anxiously awaited the arrival of Santa Claus, assisted by one of his elves, who came to town for a brief summertime visit during the annual Christmas in July celebration at Riverview Park in Sebastian.

Proceeds from the jovial event help to fund the Shop with a Cop program, wherein local law enforcement officers take about 150 children on a shopping spree at Walmart each December. Armed with a $100 gift card, members of law enforcement volunteer each year to escort the children as they carefully pick out gifts for themselves and their family members.

The festive holiday undertaking ensures that children who might not otherwise find anything underneath the Christmas tree have something to unwrap.

“Society is so rough today, and we need to create unity within the community. It’s only $100, but we want them to go out and get something they normally wouldn’t have,” said Roberta Barker, event organizer with the Sebastian Police Department.

“We see it every year. The kids want to buy for everybody but themselves. We’ve got to push them to get something for themselves. We want our children to have a good Christmas, have fun, be around police officers and see the positivity in the world.”

On Saturday, Santa’s reindeer were off frolicking at the beach, so he opted instead to parachute in, causing a flurry of excitement on the field near the park, where good little boys and girls eagerly anticipated his arrival.

After visiting with the jolly old fellow, families enjoyed such afternoon activities as watching a K-9 demonstration or hitting the bullseye at the dunk tank. Youngsters could also build a boat at Home Depot’s Kids Build site, play games and have their little faces painted. Their parents were kept busy purchasing raffle tickets, bidding on silent-auction items, dancing to the tunes of DJ Shhh-Op, getting in some early Christmas shopping at vendor booths and checking out the car show.

To donate to Shop with a Cop, contact Roberta Barker at 772-321-1894.

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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