Mathew Tollefson clutched a Lego toy to his chest and grinned.
"This is what I've been wanting," he told Ward County Sheriff's Deputy Ann Millerbernd.
"I'm glad," said Millerbernd, one of 20 area off-duty law enforcement officers helping kids shop for Christmas presents at Target on Sunday morning. Millerbernd was paired with Mathew and Courtney Hegle.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Area law enforcement officers help children buy toys at Target on Sunday. Each police officer teamed up with two kids, and each child had $150 to spend on presents at the store.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Ward County Sheriff’s Deputy Ann Millerbernd, center, helps Courtney Hegle and Mathew Tollefson buy Christmas presents at Target during the Cops and Kids event on Sunday.
"Now we're going to go and look for a little doll for her," Millerbernd said, heading off with Mathew and Courtney to the toy aisle filled with dolls.
Each of the 40 children selected for the Cops and Kids program this year, was given $150 to spend on Christmas gifts in the store.
Minot Police Department Sgt. Paul Burns, who organized this year's event, said he asked local schools to give him a list of kids who would benefit from the program. Police didn't know why the children were chosen for the program and didn't want to know, said Burns. They just wanted to help kids have a Merry Christmas. The money for the hour-long shopping expedition was donated by local businesses.
"Without them, we couldn't do this," said Burns.
Burns said law enforcement officers have been shopping with kids at Christmas for about a decade in a program called Shop with a Cop. This year the event is part of the Fraternal Order of Police Souris Valley Lodge No. 7 Cops and Kids program.
Burns said the law enforcement officers love to shop with the kids and it also gives them a chance to show a friendly face to the kids. Some of the children may have seen the police in a traumatic situation or when a relative had police involvement, said Burns.
The kids who were waiting to shop were filled with ideas about what they wanted.
"I want 'Hello Kitty,'" said 6-year-old Latona Hollis, who couldn't decide what type of Hello Kitty item she wanted most.
Ashton Felan, 6, wanted an earpiece to use with one of his games.
"I want a purse," said Nakia Burse, 11. "And some clothes and tennis shoes. I'm so happy." Nakia said she loves shopping at Target.
The kids said it was neat that the police were going to be shopping with them.
Burns said this year's event was organized quickly because many area police are still recovering from the Souris River Flood of 2011. He wants to help even more kids next year.
"Next year we're hoping to double it," he said.