CENTERVILLE -- Sitting down to visit with a police officer can cause nervousness for elementary-aged children.
Many of the 70 or so kids who entered the Bountiful Applebees on Saturday morning were a little shy and not sure how to act with the 80 officers on hand, all in full uniform.
They were all there for the Shop With a Cop program sponsored by the Davis County Fraternal Order of Police.
But once the kids began visiting with the officers, they realized there was nothing to be afraid of, and then the interesting questions began.
For Dave Edwards, president of the Davis County FOP, the most popular question he gets every year is, "Have you arrested anyone?"
"I'm usually thinking, 'Yes, 45 minutes ago, I just dropped a guy off at the jail.' That's a side of it they don't see," he said.
"They start out being very apprehensive, but once we have a meal together and they get past the uniform and all the guns and tools, the fun begins."
Fun was definitely on the agenda.
After breakfast, the children were escorted in patrol cars, with sirens blaring and lights flashing for the entire trip, to the Centerville Walmart, where they had the chance to go on a shopping spree for themselves.
The experience of shopping with a cop, a tradition for more than 20 years, isn't just about providing toys and clothing for a child in need but is also an opportunity for officers to form a relationship with the younger generation.
"We are trusted to create a Christmas experience, but also plant a seed for law enforcement because it opens up that avenue to talk and communicate," said Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson, who has participated in the event for 18 years.
"Most of the time, if we have planted a seed, then down the road, we find out who's dealing because they don't want that in their schools."
The kids involved in this year's program, ranging in age from 5 to 14, come from a mixture of circumstances. Many of the kids were chosen to participate because of their financial circumstances, others have social issues that officers can try to redirect, and still others have experienced tragic events, Richardson said.
He said one participant lost a parent last year and the other parent just two months ago.
After the patrol cars filed into the parking lot, Santa arrived in Primary Children's Medical Center helicopter. Seeing Santa wave to her and the other kids from high up in the sky was the highlight of the morning for 8-year-old Angelina.
She did admit to being slightly nervous when she met her partner, Kaysville Police Sgt. Paul Thompson.
"He was friendly, though, and he started talking to me, so then I wasn't nervous anymore," she said.
Thompson agreed that sometimes the uniforms are a little intimidating. "That's why we wear our uniforms, so that they know they can talk to us and that we are friendly."
The law enforcement participants keep coming back to the event year after year, using off-duty time to volunteer.
"The reason why everyone comes back is because you get to look at the faces of these children when they're going in to the restaurant and when they see the helicopter, and it's rewarding, especially since it's not something we see every day," Edwards said.
What's particularly touching for Edwards is watching some of the kids go into the store and start asking to use the money to purchase gifts for their siblings.
"It's pretty impressive when the kid is here with money for themselves, and they want to spend it on others," he said.
The Shop With a Cop program is made possible by private and business donations, which provide the children a free breakfast and gives each child $100 for the shopping spree.
Representatives of all Davis County law enforcement agencies participate.