Christmas morning came early Wednesday for about 35 children who spent a few hours shopping at the Martinez Wal-Mart with Columbia County authorities during the fourth annual Day With a Deputy.
The program, which pairs a Columbia County sheriff's deputy with an underprivileged youth, helps ensure the children have a brighter Christmas, event organizer Deputy Eric Snowberger said.
The event also helps foster a better relationship with law enforcement and gives the children positive role models to admire, he said.
"Some of these families either may not have had any experience or a not very positive experience with law enforcement," he said. "It gives us a chance to interact for a few hours."
Martinez resident D'ajia McBride's eyes lit up Wednesday as she looked at the stylish ruffled creme top and jeans she picked out with the help of Columbia County sheriff's Deputy Teresa Lee.
Moments later, the 7-year-old got excited when Lee told her it was time to pick out toys.
"Yes!" D'ajia said, pumping her arms and walking alongside Lee to pick out some Bratz dolls. She also found a Moon Sand castle set.
"You can make stuff with it and it stands up," D'ajia said as she placed a toy in the cart.
Near the layaway counter, where the children checked out their Christmas gifts, 6-year-old Shamya West, of Harlem, raced toward the register on her new purple bicycle with sheriff's Sgt. Sean Clack in tow.
Shamya's sisters Kiki, 7, and Dinisha, 9, also participated.
Nicholas West, the girls' father, said the event helped make his daughters' Christmas happier.
"It helps out a lot and makes sure the kids get something at Christmas," he said. "We thank the Lord we can get something like this at Christmas."
Day with a Deputy provides a $175 gift card for children to help fulfill their Christmas wishes. Each child's family also received a Christmas tree, an additional $50 gift card per child, a gift bag and a boxed Christmas meal.
Augusta Urban Ministries selected the vast majority of the children, and the support of about 25 individual, club and corporate sponsors helped make the event the largest yet, Snowberger said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.