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‘I wanted to do this for her’

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By Jay Cason

Thanks to the holiday spirit of local police and the largess of the community, the Christmases of 14 Anderson County children were jump started Saturday through a program dubbed Shop With A Cop.

One of the children, Brianna, 12, was too ill to participate in the program, so her brother Blake, 10, filled in for her.

“She’s really sick and has been in the hospital a lot,” Blake said. “I wanted to do this for her. I made a list of things that I thought she’d like and would make her happy. And I added a few things for myself.”

“It took some talking to get him to choose a few things for himself,” explained Autumn Boblitt, who helped organize Shop With A Cop. Boblitt said Blake would have been content to spend all of the money on gifts for his sister.

Another of the 14 children was also unable to attend the Saturday event. Barbara Basham, a local family resource official, shopped and wrapped presents for the child. Then several local police officers delivered them to the Lexington hospital where the child is being treated for leukemia.

The rest of the kids, who are between 5 and 13 years old, started their day with a pickup and delivery to the community building at Anderson County Park by a police officer. Most of the officers represented the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and the Lawrenceburg Police Department, but a state Alcoholic Beverage Control officer who resides in Anderson County also participated.

After being treated to a hearty breakfast, the youngsters enjoyed a Wal-Mart shopping spree. Their special day concluded with a pizza party and a visit from Santa before being escorted back home by their personal police officer.

Some of the kids were apprehensive when initially invited to participate in the program, but their attitudes changed after meeting their officers.

“At first, I was nervous at the thought of going with a police officer,” said a 13-year-old girl. “But now that I’ve met him, it’s OK.”

“This is going to make my Christmas a lot merrier,” added a boy, age 9.

Any reservations that Blake might have had ended as soon as he entered Greg Boblitt’s cruiser.

“He let me turn on the sirens,” Blake explained.

Anderson County Sheriff Troy Young said the kids’ comments and attitudes made the program all the more worthwhile.

“I’ve wanted to start this program for quite a while,” said Young.

“This is a national program, but each community does it differently,” added Greg Boblitt.

The local program was funded by contributions from community businesses, civic organizations and churches. Autumn Boblitt, who is married to Deputy Boblitt, was in charge of the program’s fundraising efforts.

“We started with a $1,000 donation from Wal-Mart,” she said. “After that, money just started pouring in. Our initial goal was to raise enough to spend $200 on 10 kids. But we passed that early and added more kids.”

After the money was raised Young turned to Basham for assistance in identifying children for the program.

“Autumn did all the fundraising and Barbara contacted the kids,” Young said.

“Narrowing the list (of participants) was very hard,” Basham said. “We tried to select kids who were not already receiving assistance from other programs. We also tried to choose kids who had difficult years — the loss of loved ones, serious illness or a fire in their home. And a couple of the kids had negative experiences with police officers.”

Although Young said he is satisfied with this year’s edition of Shop With A Cop, he plans to gain from experience and improve it by next year.

”I just think the need is there,” Young said.

E-mail Jay Cason at jcason@theandersonnews.com.