Normally police sirens mean anything but Christmas cheer, Santa's coming or joyous anything. Hardly ever ho, ho, ho. But Christmas cheer it was Saturday in Weber and Davis counties as police officers took underprivileged kids shopping.
In Roy, 45 patrol cars fired up lights and sirens around 6 a.m. to take their charges to the Walmart in Riverdale for a shopping binge after finishing breakfast at the Village Inn in Roy.
In Davis County, it was nearly 50 police cars, paramedics, highway patrol and sheriff cars, all with lights flashing and sirens blaring as they drove along Parrish Lane in Centerville en route to Walmart from breakfast at Texas Roadhouse.
Each patrol car carried elementary school-age children participating in the Shop With a Cop program sponsored by the Davis County Fraternal Order of Police.
And at both places, before shopping, the kids and their escorts were treated to Santa's arrival via helicopter.
Bonneville High School students, Walmart and the officers all anted up, in cash or in kind, to sponsor the shopping spree in which each kid received $100.
Village Inn donated the breakfast. Servers don't take tips either, said the restaurant manager, Steve Brasel, who quoted the cost of the meals at approximately $500.
"Oh my, yes, you could hear the sirens," said Brasel, noting this was his eighth consecutive year hosting Shop With a Hero.
"I had a few phone calls from concerned neighbors. They just wondered what was going on, if we were OK. But it's fun. I had the same bunch of employees on this year. It's always fun.
"It's kind of neat to see that many police officers at the same time and they're all having a great time with the kids."
An "early riser" coffee regular was about the only other customer on hand. The coffee drinker was also startled by the sirens, Brasel said.
"I don't know why, he's been coming in here every day for at least eight years."
Nearly 60 kids participating in Davis County were each accompanied by a law enforcement official, each wielding a $100 gift certificate donated by local businesses and individuals.
The Davis County Fraternal Order of Police has been involved with Shop With a Cop for as long as Bryan Ives, chapter president, can remember.
"It is rewarding for us as officers to help these kids because it gives us the opportunity to have a positive interaction with the children and to see their faces light up when they have money to spend on themselves," Ives said.
For Logan, 8, of Layton, being with a cop meant getting to honk the horn of Farmington Patrol Officer Eric Johnson's police car, much to the displeasure of several in the crowd.
Chuckling, Johnson encouraged Logan to keep going.
"This is such a unique experience that never seems to get old," said Johnson, who has participated for eight years.
Nerf guns and Pillow Pets were popular toys, making their way into kids' carts in the first few minutes of shopping.
Tryston, 7, of Clinton, was excited about his shopping experience after retrieving his own Pillow Pet and Nerf gun.
"It's good because we get to spend it with the cops," Tryston said. "I've always thought cops were cool."
The officers look forward to the event each year, especially Kaysville Police Cpl. Tim Barlow.
"It is a huge opportunity for us to share with these kids and participate with the community," he said. "So many of our experiences are not such good ones."
Weber County organizers, led by sheriff's Deputies Jeff Lemberes and Josh Gard, said 45 officers had lined up 53 kids, aged pre-school to early teens, for the shopfest.
"It's a pretty good show," Lemberes said. "I'm still deaf from standing in front of all the cars while we guided the helicopter in. Their sirens were still going. The kids loved it."
"We could hear the sirens from the restaurant," said Pauline Lundquist, community involvement coordinator at the Riverdale Walmart.
"It's wonderful. It's so fun every year. The officers are so cute."
The store kicked in a $750 grant for Shop With a Hero, she said. Normally it's $1,000, but even Walmart is making cutbacks in the current economic climate, she said.
But Lemberes said the event wouldn't happen without Bonneville High School fundraising students, who gave $5,000 to Shop With a Hero, their usual cash gift.
They were also on hand at Walmart, wrapping gifts the children bought for others.
In addition to the sheriff's office, the North Ogden, Pleasant View, Riverdale and Roy police forces took part.