Santa made a pre-Christmas stop at the Evans Walmart on Wednesday.
Mr. Claus visited with 46 children before they headed out to shop with Columbia County sheriff’s deputies as part of the ninth annual Day With a Deputy.
Aidan Tidwell, 6, enjoyed the shopping spree funded by donations from area businesses and individuals. He loaded his cart with the Hungry, Hungry Hippo game, a Nerf gun and lots of Spiderman and superhero gear.
“That’s all he talks about, that’s all he ever watches,” Aidan’s father, Ty Tidwell, said of his son’s love of superheroes.
Aidan, who now lives in Washington County, is battling a malignant rhabdoid tumor, a highly aggressive form of pediatric cancer.
But Aidan’s illness wasn’t obvious as he lead a group of sheriff’s office shoppers through the toy department.
“He thinks cops are cool,” Tidwell said. “He thinks cops are superheroes.”
That’s part of the goal of a Day With a Deputy: providing children with a positive experience with police, said Sgt. Daniel Massey, who oversees the program.
“That’s the message,” Massey said. “We don’t want the kids always thinking of cops as ‘something is wrong.’ ”
Deputies partner with children recommended by school counselors and Columbia County Cares to spend $200 on necessities such as shoes and clothes, and some toys and games for Christmas.
Jordan Miller, 4, of Grovetown, loves Spider-man. He just smiled as deputies helped him pick out clothes and toys.
Jordan’s buggy was stacked with Spiderman gear, including a bicycle and matching helmet, toys and shoes adorned with the superhero.
“As long he’s happy, I’m happy,” Jordan’s mother said, adding she’ll let him enjoy one toy and put the rest away until Christmas morning.
Massey, who has been involved in the program since it began, said it is close to his heart.
“I get a kick out of it,” he said. “I love it, just to see the smiles on their faces that the kids have.”