Five-year-old Adrian picks up a box about as big as he is and attempts — unsuccessfully — to lift it over his head into a nearby shopping cart already brimming with brightly-colored toys and games.
“Can you put this in there?” he asks Dane Miller, an officer with the Indiana Department of Corrections, his voice straining under the effort.
“He's good at this,” Miller said with a chuckle as he took the game of KerPlunk and set it down in the cart. “He's showing me how it's done.”
“This kid is supreme. He's the best,” said James McCutchen, a student at South Knox Middle High School, with a wide smile.
The trio made their through the packed toy aisles at Walmart Tuesday morning as part of the Vincennes Fraternal Order of Police's annual Shop With a Cop program that allows local law enforcement officers the opportunity to shower local youngsters in need with toys, clothes and games.
“It's my first time,” Miller said as he attempted to maneuver the cart through the dense crowd. “But it's pretty neat, pretty cool, for sure.”
Local officers with the Vincennes Police Department work year-round to raise funds for the event, and this year, according to long-time coordinator Det. Maj. Steve Chesser, was a huge success.
They raised more than $50,000 — or enough to buy each of the 195 local kids at least $200 in presents.
“They're pretty excited about that,” Chesser said, his voice muffled by a fluffy, white Santa Claus beard. “I mean, what kid doesn't like to get toys?”
Dozens of local and regional law enforcement officers take part each year, all of them gathering at Pace Community Action Agency, 525 N. Fourth St., and making the trek together out to Walmart, lights blazing and sirens wailing the whole way.
It gives them a chance not only to make local kids' Christmas dreams come true but also to present themselves in a positive light as too many of the children have had only negative experiences with uniformed law enforcement officers.
And this year, Chesser said, the list of shoppers was long. He received help from both city and county police departments as well as from Vincennes University, Bicknell and even state conservation officers, corrections officers and employees from the local probation, prosecutor's and social services offices.
Students from all four county high schools, too, were there to offer a helping hand.
“The response this year has been good,” Chesser said. “We've got some new officers this year. Bicknell has some new officers, too. And a lot of them felt better about participating when they found out they'd have high school students to help out.
“Overall, everything is going really well this year.”
A few aisles over, 4-year-old Lilly couldn't tear her eyes away from her cart full of toys.
“I got everything I wanted,” she said, her smile infectious.
“I even got two Hatchimals,” she said, holding the two plastic boxes to the front of her festive red and green dress.
Bill Poe, a deputy with the Knox County Sheriff's office, looked on with pride.
“This is my third time doing (Shop With a Cop),” he said, his eyes still glued to Lilly. “I grew up in a similar situation. It's sad, unfortunate that this could be the best Christmas she has.
“But to be able to do this,” he said, his voice trailing off. “I just hope she remembers this for the rest of her life.”
Nick Hatfield with the Indiana State Police brought along his wife, Hannah, this year, and together they helped 4-year-old Brynley check things off her Christmas list.
To their amusement, she had no problem navigating the vast toy aisles.
“She knows exactly what she wants,” Nick Hatfield said with a chuckle. “She sees it, and she grabs it.
“And it's all making her very happy.”
“Show her your sparkly shoes,” Hannah Hatfield said as the little girl held up a pair of tennis shoes covered in silver glitter. “This was her first choice today.”