Zohrab Haroyan held on to a mostly empty red shopping basket as he stood in the Target at Glendale Galleria last week, trying to figure out his next move in the store.
The 16-year-old unexpectedly received a $200-gift card and the only item in his basket, so far, was a 2-terabyte external hard drive.
“Can’t decide what to delete, right? You always need storage,” he said.
His surprise windfall came courtesy of the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn. and its Cops for Kids program. Each year, the program holds its Shop with a Cop event, where disadvantaged youths in the city are taken on a holiday shopping spree with officers from the Glendale Police Department.
This year, the event was held on Dec. 11, and 30 youths each got a $200-gift card to spend in the local Target, which donated $6,000 worth of gift cards.
Amy Tate, who oversees the Cops for Kids program, said the young shoppers weren’t told how much they could spend until right before they entered the store.
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “Each officer is great with kids, so I tried to pair them with a child based on their personalities.”
To participate in the event, Tate said the youths were first nominated by their schools on the basis of need and then vetted by the police department.
Haroyan didn’t know about his nomination until he was called out of class one day at Daily High School and came face to face with a waiting police officer.
“That was an interesting experience, being a high school kid and having a cop waiting for you outside,” he said. “My principal even turned around and jokingly said, ‘They caught you.’”
Sgt. Ben Bateman, who was partnered with Haroyan and is president of the police officers’ association, said the event provides the participants with a way to buy gifts not only for themselves but for others as well.
“A lot of the kids we bring out here select stuff for their siblings or their parents,” he said. “Not only are they getting gifts for themselves, but they’re bringing that joy home, too, and sharing it with family.”
In another part of the store, 10-year-old Dalayhas Alvarado was doing just that. In addition to getting gifts for herself, she was also picking out toys for her brothers and sister.
“It’s just great to get someone you love something that you really want them to enjoy,” she said.