Leigh Longley, 12, not only collected money to provide Christmas for needy children. She was also able to help them shop at the Martinez Walmart on Tuesday.
By sending letters to friends, the Evans Middle School seventh-grader collected $430 for Day With a Deputy, a program that allows the children to shop with a police officer.
"It was just something I thought I should do," said Leigh, adding that it was exciting to see how the donated funds were used.
The program, which started as Shop With a Cop, assists children in need during the holiday season by allowing them to go shopping for clothing and shoes as well as toys and bicycles.
It also gives the children, who are identified by counselors in the Columbia County school system, a good experience with police officers, said Deputy Daniel Massey, who coordinated the program.
"We're here to partner with the kids so the kids can see a positive side of law enforcement," Massey told the group of about 50 sheriff's deputies and volunteers.
Dylan Cashwell, 9, of Martinez, knew exactly what he wanted -- a second pair of boots. After getting a camouflage pair, he opted to go back with his police partner Capt. Clay Smith for a brown pair.
Tyler Braddy, 6, of Grovetown, had more fun in the toy department. Her shopping partner, Deputy Jason Hilley, has a daughter, so he was well equipped to help Tyler pick out outfits for her Barbie doll.
The pair playfully hollered "Beep, beep" to warn shoppers and clear a path as they weaved their shopping cart up and down the aisles.
Nearly 50 children, each with $175, went shopping.
The sheriff's office collected about $16,000 from area businesses and individuals.
"This year, we had a lot more kids than last year," Smith said, adding that the amount of funds determines the number of children the program can help.
"But we had more money to spend. ... And people like Leigh helping us out. This year, we're fortunate that people were more willing to give than last year."
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