Osiyrus Leavell, 8, pinky-promised Sgt. Dalton Hall to ride his bicycle safely around the checkout registers in the Oakwood Walmart. Protecting his head with a black-and-red mohawk helmet, the boy slowly pedaled the bike near the garden center with Hall close behind him.
For his third year, Hall joined other Flowery Branch Police officers in the “Shop with a Cop” event at the Mundy Mill Road store. His work Saturday morning included loading a cart of Nerf guns and “anything that lights up,” he said.
“It’s probably one of the coolest things … about working here in Flowery Branch,” Hall said.
Chief David Spillers said each kid had a soft limit of $300, with some going over or under. Around 10 a.m., the chief said he expected the grand total to be around $6,000 between 18 children, though not everyone was aiming for toys and games.
“The little guy I was with wanted to get groceries for his mama for Christmas,” Spillers said.
Nona Gamble, Osiyrus’ grandmother and guardian, said the family was affected by a fire in Riverdale in May.
“We lost everything, and then my daughter got us an apartment out here,” she said.
Osiyrus’ and his siblings took to the Nerf guns and Beyblade toys, as the kids and officers loaded up shopping carts.
“I explained to them the importance of Christmas, and that’s really not to get stuff all the time. Sometimes you’ve got to be thankful for your situation,” Gamble said.
Officer Jake Xayavong danced in the checkout line with the kids while Cpl. Denton Vaughan neared the Walmart cashier. Vaughan helped three children including CJ Ward, 8, whose cart was filled with a wrestling belt, wrestling figurines, toy cars, a car seat and clothes.
“We interact with these kids. I see them a lot of times in town, so not only is it an experience for not only me but for my daughter to come and actually see what not just Christmas but what life is all about — giving and helping people. To me, it’s just the experience of giving and loving,” Vaughan said.
One family was unable to show because of illness and transportation issues, but Spillers said that kid will not go empty-handed.
“We’ll have to come back and get stuff for them. They sent a list,” he said.