Christmas came early for 101 area children who were invited to Operation Take Our Youth Shopping.
This year, the program outgrew its original location at the Jefferson City Police Department.
By 7 a.m. Saturday, children and parents filled the Lincoln University Jason Gym on Lafayette Street. First responders from multiple agencies volunteered to treat them to a shopping spree at Walmart East in Jefferson City.
"It's a fun program that we get to take kids shopping and actually have a lot of fun with them," Officer Les Martin said. Martin is a Jefferson City police officer and elementary resource officer.
Throughout the year, the Jefferson City Police, Cole County Sheriffs, Missouri Highway Patrol, Missouri Capital Police, Holt Summit Police, Lincoln University Police, Algoa Correctional Center and the Jefferson City Correctional Center collect funds for the event.
Each child was given a $150 gift card to spend.
After a small breakfast, children paired with officers who escorted them to their vehicles. They turned on the sirens, used the PA speaker and were excited to ride in the police cars.
"I'm gonna get me and my mom these two really pretty necklaces," Ka'Jahae Hightown said. "Then, I'm going to go to the toy isle and get my little sister some toys."
A loud processional at 8 a.m. made its way down U.S. 50 East.
Upon arrival at Walmart, the children met Santa who surprised them in a SWAT vehicle.
Patrol Deputy Hunter Bemboom said he has been volunteering with the program before he joined law enforcement.
"My dad was a 19-year veteran with the Cole County Sheriff's Department," Bemboom said. "Now this is my third year doing it — it's something around every holiday season I really look forward to."
Kathleen Greer, of Jefferson City, said she was excited when she got the call that said 10-year-old Ariyah was chosen to be in the program.
"I think its a good thing everybody doesn't have the funds for stuff like this around the holidays," Greer said.
Knowing Ariyah will get some gifts off her Christmas list, Greer said she can focus on gifts for her two oldest children. She said more agencies should get involved so more of the community can benefit.
"If more people could do this more often, it would save a lot of trouble during the holiday."