Cops step in for Santa

POULSBO — Treyton Fowler walked through Poulsbo’s Super Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon with all the determination a 5-year-old could muster. With his family’s uniformed guardian angel by his side, he was going to find the perfect toy.

Treyton’s father, Shawn Fowler of Gig Harbor, trailed behind as he watched his son browse the aisles shopping for a Christmas that may have gone uncelebrated had it not been for the compassion of strangers and the Shop With a Cop program.

Fowler and his wife, Amber, have three children and are raising four of her younger brothers as their own. A member of his church offered the family’s name and circumstance to participate in the program.

Shop With a Cop is the combined effort of state and local law enforcement and military agencies, the Washington State Department of Corrections and Kitsap County Central Communications. Uniformed volunteers met with the children to offer $100 gift cards and act as a shopping buddy. In its fourth year, Shop With a Cop served 98 children.

A majority of the participants were chosen through the North Kitsap School District this year. The Fowlers were one of the few participants from outside school district’s boundaries.

“What an amazing gift,” Shawn Fowler said. “With seven kids, Christmas was going to be a stretch for sure.”

While some of the children were homeless and living in shelters, all were in families that needed a helping hand to get through the holidays.

All uniformed participants volunteered their time to chaperone the children through the store, said Ned Newlin, who served as Santa Claus’ chauffeur for the event. In Newlin’s day job, he’s the chief of corrections for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

Included in the shopping expedition were a pizza dinner and an opportunity for a picture with Santa, Mrs. Claus and their finest elf.

Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Claus had a prior engagement, so they enlisted the help of Rick Fitzwater to stand in for Santa, Max Abundis to help out for Mrs. Claus and Dave Decker to be the elf.

Funding for the event came from a variety of sources. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office raised money through valet parking at the Kitsap County Fair and Stampede, while other agencies and civic organizations assisted with other fundraising efforts.

For the first three years, participants were chosen through the South Kitsap School District.

“We look to school districts because they know which students are really in need of clothing and toys,” said Scott Wilson, public information officer for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office. “The thing that’s really heartwarming is that almost all of the 100 kids who go on the shopping spree with officers buy for everyone but themselves.”

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