Devin Williams couldn't stop smiling.
The wind whipping through the Walmart East Christmas shop exit may have been just above freezing, but standing next to his mom, a cart full of toys and Detective Chad Stieferman, Williams was warm with happiness.
Operation T.O.Y.S. (Take Our Youth Shopping) has been putting a smile on the faces of Jefferson City youth for more than 30 years.
Williams and his sister Maddison Hussmann were among the 75 children ages 5-11, who were nominated by their schools or the recommended by the children's division for the program this year.
"We're very excited," Hussmann's mother, Judith, said. "This is a blessing."
Officer Charlie Pappert learned about the annual fundraiser for Operation T.O.Y.S. in October, after joining Capitol Police this spring. Later, he learned he could volunteer for Saturday morning's shopping spree, along with more than 100 officers from participating local law enforcement agencies.
Pappert was paired up with Hussmann when they met at the police department community room for doughnuts and juice about 7:30 a.m.
"I thought Mom was getting us up for school," Hussmann said.
Her mother had kept the event a surprise, since Hussmann dreams of becoming a crime solver herself.
"She went from sleepy and grouchy to "whoa' and excited," when they arrived at the police station, Judith said.
For most of the kids, and some of the officers, the caravan from the police department to the retail store of emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens wailing was the highlight of the morning.
"It's fun for us to play with the sirens too," Pappert said. "It was really cool to look down the highway and see an endless stream of lights."
When they arrived at Walmart East, they were greeted by Santa Claus, who was riding aboard the new SWAT tank.
Then, it was time to take to the aisles.
Stieferman with the police department and Williams headed for the Nerf guns after giving the jolly elf a high-five.
They found Iron Man, Ninja Turtle and Bey Blade toys, which will stay in the packaging until Christmas, Judith said. But Williams likely was enjoying the new DS video games through the weekend.
"I've got a 7-year-old also, so I knew where all the toys were," Stieferman said.
After checking out, they waited for Hussmann sister.
"I like the smiles on kids' faces and the thrill and joy they get from this," said Stieferman, who has volunteered the past ten years.
Some children were thrifty, filling their carts full, while others went for one or two more expensive items.
The most popular items this year included Monster High dolls, pillow pets, skateboards, bicycles and radio-controlled cars. Some included shoes and clothing in their carts.
And a few, like Tre Anthony, 9, used part of their $100 gift card to buy something to give to others.
Walmart associates were available to wrap those special gifts. Tonya Miller wrapped the toy Anthony picked out for his baby brother.
"It's awesome kids are caring about their siblings," Miller said.
When asked why he used part of his money for someone else, Anthony said, "Because I love him."
Officers from the following agencies supported the project with donations and volunteering: Jefferson City Police Department, Cole County Sheriff's Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Capitol Police, Missouri Department of Corrections and Lincoln University Police Department.
They were also supported by community organizations and businesses, including the Jefferson City Police Officers Association Lodge #19, Missouri State Trooper Association, Jefferson City Jaycees, Jefferson City Correctional Center/Algoa Correctional Center staff, Auxiliary of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Central Bank and Jefferson Bank.
"Throughout the year, we're always dealing with some kind of adversity," said Sergeant Pat McCutcheon, spokesman for the Jefferson City Police Department. "We see kids in difficult situations they're placed in.
"This is a time to let our guard down and provide them with something good and an experience they may not have otherwise."