PALM COAST, Fla. (December 15, 2023) There were plenty of cheers to go around on Friday evening as the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office hosted the annual ‘Shop with a Cop’ event for 130 very excited youngsters.

A collaborative effort, supported by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office employees who generously donated more than $24,000 from their own paychecks to Flagler-based organizations like the AmVets, Blue Knights, the Punishers and the Knights of the Inferno motorcycle clubs, bringing in thousands of dollars in charitable donations as well, each of the 130 children was given $200 to spend on a fun-filled shopping spree accompanied by members of law enforcement and staff.

Flagler News Weekly

“Walmart has just been a great partner and we really appreciate all the community’s support,” said Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly, shopping with his wife Debbie and their young charge Jeff.

“This is my favorite event ever,” shared Debbie Staly. “When we do this every year, it’s the most amazing event. These kids are just so wonderful and so loving and sweet. It’s so much fun, and the best thing you could ever do is help these kids.”

Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly and wife Debbie Staly take Jeff shopping. Flagler News Weekly

Jeff was eager to head inside to get started, but it was other family members topping the shopping list.

“Toys for my little brother, stuff for my sisters and surprise stuff for my uncle, my mommy and my godmommy. And they’re really nice,” said Jeff, giving Debbie Staly a hug.

Starting the 2023 Shop with a Cop experience with the arrival of Santa and lots of kid-friendly activities at the Flagler Sheriff’s Operations Center, Sheriff Staly shared his appreciation to a good friend who helped ensure Santa arrived at the perfect time, to the delight of the children and their families.

Flagler County Tax Collector’s Office Operations Manager Shelly Edmonson and Liam prepare to go shopping. Flagler News Weekly

“Santa did come in on a helicopter. He had a modern version of the sleigh and landed in front of the Sheriff’s Operation’s Center. We appreciate Dan Newlin providing his helicopter to bring Santa in and land it so the kids, while they were having fun at the operations center got to see Santa,” said Staly.

All in good fun, Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly and Commander Louis Micelli keep a close eye on The Grinch. Flagler News Weekly

Parading down State Road 100, sirens blaring and lights flashing, the children were escorted to the Palm Coast Walmart to shop to their heart’s content. Onlookers stopped to watch the procession in awe, and the Wal-Mart staff greeted the kids with fully stocked shelves and smiles to match.

“This is amazing. This makes our entire year worth everything that we do,” said Walmart Store Manager Janet Baldwin.

The team at the Palm Coast Walmart, led by store manager Janet Baldwin, ensure the Shop with a Cop event helped make dreams come true on Friday evening. Flagler News Weekly

“I love seeing kids happy, smiling and so excited. We love helping the community. We try to be involved in everything that we can as far as charities, donations, anything we can do to help. We love being that active partner.”

While no officers were on duty to alleviate the traffic jam in the toy section of store, The Grinch made the rounds keeping kids laughing while family members watched their loved ones happily just being kids.

Plenty of smiles to go around. Flagler News Weekly

“This is our first time doing it this year and she’s having a blast. Holding onto her cop’s hand, loves her cop, super nice. She’s having a blast,” said Kelly Hutchinson, who urged her granddaughter Ali to shop for herself and enjoy the moment.

“She’s a seven-year-old who thinks about everybody else before herself. Tonight’s about her. That’s what I want her to do. She’s got the biggest heart, and I just want her to go out and do for her.”

Jill Dempsey lends a hand. Flagler News Weekly

Helping her young shopper, Shelly Edmonson, operations manager for the Flagler County Tax Collector’s Office, was as giddy as the children as they navigated the aisles.

“I am so honored to be a part of this amazing event. For years our office has contributed but this is the first time we’ve actually been able to participate,” said Edmonson, before shopping with five-year-old Liam.

“I wore my waterproof mascara just for this event. He is fantastic and full of energy, and we’re really excited to go shopping.”

After shopping, participants were invited to enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers before visiting with Santa. Flagler News Weekly

Among the spectators was Joe Vece, President of the Knights of the Inferno, who help raise funds each year to donate to the Flagler Sheriff’s Children’s Charities for the Shop with a Cop program. With a smile reflected in his eyes, it was a full circle moment as he watched the kids’ enjoyment.

“We made a donation to this event and I’m amazing to see how many kids are here, and the smiles on the faces that wouldn’t be here if we didn’t do what we do. This means a lot to me,” said Vece.

“People don’t realize the small donations matter. The sheriff’s department did a heck of a job, it’s just amazing. Wal-Mart stepped up to the plate a couple of years ago when their competitor backed out and they have done a great job with this event since. It’s amazing.”

Carlo Celico and Joe Vece visit with Santa. Flagler News Weekly