By Greg Ellison, Staff Writer
As in past years, troopers from the Berlin Barrack, along with family members and volunteers, provided a memorable shopping and bonding experience for children in Worcester County.
The tradition began in 2013 after Senior Tpr. Marlin Myers, who was onboard once again in 2017, read about similar programs elsewhere in Maryland and promoted the charitable campaign to his cohorts.
“We took 18 kids this year,” Myers said. “They were having a ball and were wearing our hats.”
Prior to arriving at Wal-Mart aboard the Maryland State Police Bus, the young holiday shoppers convened at the barrack for a facility tour and police vehicle show-and-tell. They also received honorary Junior Maryland Trooper Badges.
Each child was partnered with an officer and given $100 to spend.
“In many cases, the troopers chip in a few more dollars if needed,” he said.
Six-year-old Peyton Bateman peppered Tpr. Brian Reilly with questions as the pair inspected the shelves to select holiday purchases.
“I’m excited,” Bateman said. “I’m buying gifts for my whole family.”
Before transferring to Berlin, Reilly was on patrol in Montgomery County, where he participated in a comparable “Shop with a Cop” event organized by the Rockville Barrack.
“This is my first year doing it down here,” he said. “This is pretty much a statewide event. [Rockville] does it a little bit differently, but it’s the same concept.”
As Reilly continued gift consultations with Bateman, he noted the selfless nature of the youngsters.
“Usually kids are pretty humble too,” he said. “They buy stuff not even for themselves but really for their families.”
To illustrate that point, Reilly said Bateman’s initial present selection was intended for his entire household to share.
“The first gift that Peyton got was Monopoly because he’s keeping his family in mind during the holidays,” he said. “He wants to spend time at Christmas together with his family to play games.”
Layne Gray, 8, said the bus ride over was a bit different than a typical school bus experience.
“It was fun because you get to sit next to your trooper and in the bus the seats are like stalls,” she said.
Inspecting her purchases after checkout, Gray said she was excited to ride the bus back to the barrack, where event volunteers would serve lunch and assist children with gift-wrapping.
“I’ve got one for my mom and dad and my baby brother,” she said.
Ebbin Phillips, 8, said he managed to stretch the allotted holiday budget beyond the nuclear family.
“I bought a gift for my grandmom,” he said.
Still, children will be children, as evidenced by Bateman’s final holiday investment.
“You’ve still got $15, what are you going to spend it on … or we could just get more Pokémon cards?,” Reilly said.
To which Bateman ecstatically responded, “More Pokémon cards.”
The program has continued because of donations from Wal-Mart and the National Wal-Mart Foundation, Harbor Marine in West Ocean City, DeNovo’s Trattoria Restaurant in Ocean Pines, Chick-fil-A in West Ocean City, Atlantic Physical Therapy in Ocean Pines, the Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Women, private citizen donations, the Worcester County Board of Education, the Worcester County Health Department, the Worcester County CRICKET Center, and the men and women, both sworn and civilian, of the Maryland State Police Salisbury, Princess Anne and Berlin barracks.