This was no ordinary shopping spree: Just before sunrise on Saturday, Dec. 8, squeals of delight rang out as 54 kids and more than 60 Maui Police Department (MPD) officers and cadets whisked through the aisles of the Target store in Kahului during this year’s “Shop with a Cop” event.
The annual holiday event was launched on Maui 15 years ago by Bruce McDonald, a Realtor Broker with Maui Real Estate Advisors LLC and a longtime member of the Kiwanis Club of Kahului. It’s something McDonald looks forward to every year—in fact, he says he hardly sleeps the night before. “I’m too excited,” he laughed. “It reminds me of when I was a kid, trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve.”
And it’s easy to see why McDonald is so excited. “When you see the expressions on the faces of these kids—it’s just unreal,” he said. “It’s the best day of the year for me. And it’s a great day for everyone involved.”
Each year, the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui selects kids whose families could use a little boost during the holiday season. The children and their family members arrive at Target bright and early at 6 a.m. and have breakfast as they await the much-anticipated main event: Santa’s arrival. After Santa makes his grand entrance, he calls each child’s name and gives them a wrapped gift. Then, the child is paired with a shopping buddy—a uniformed police officer or cadet—who takes them around the store to pick out other presents with a $100 Target gift card.
Apart from spreading some holiday cheer, the annual event aims to build trust between the community and law enforcement and change kids’ perceptions of police officers. One year, McDonald said a little boy arrived at the event visibly fearful of the uniformed officers. But a few hours later, with a toy police car clutched in one hand, the boy proclaimed, “I want to be a policeman when I grow up.”
“That’s what we’re trying to do—show these kids that police officers are their friends and they there to help,” McDonald said.
And it’s always a good time.
“The officers have a blast, the kids have a blast, we have a blast and it’s just a feel-good day for everyone,” McDonald said.
He says the Kiwanis mission—“changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time”—inspired him to bring the Shop with a Cop program to Maui in 2004. In addition to supporting Shop with a Cop every year, the Kiwanis Club of Kahului sponsors two key clubs (the oldest and largest student-led service program for high school students) at King Kekaulike High School and Baldwin High School. The Kiwanis Club of Kahului also participates in the Maui Food Bank’s Aloha BackPack Buddies program at Wailuku Elementary School; the program provides healthy weekend meals to elementary school students from food-insecure homes throughout the academic year. In addition, McDonald said, the club recently wrapped up its 6th annual Kiwanis Club of Kahului/Maui Memorial Foundation Golf Tournament, with all proceeds benefiting the Pediatrics Department at Maui Memorial Medical Center.
It’s not too early to contribute to next year’s Shop with a Cop; McDonald said cash donations and gift cards are always welcome. With more assistance, more kids can participate, he explained. After all, at the end of the day, it’s really all about the kids. “That’s why we do this year after year,” McDonald said. “Bringing joy to others is the greatest gift of all.”
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – December 22, 2018