BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — An event that happens in Brookings before Christmas every year brings law enforcement and kids along with their families together for a night of shopping and fun.

Christmas, Kids and Cops started in Brookings about 20 years ago.

Brookings Police Department assistant chief Joe Fishbaugher used to be a school resource officer, and the original idea for this event came from him and another officer during his time in that position.

“We just saw a need with the kids in the schools we worked with. They had a need,” he said. “Whether it be food or clothes or something. So we kind of took this process and evolved it, and it started out with about eight kids way back when we started it, to now we’re up to 36.”

Participating kids are picked by teachers, counselors and school resource officers.

“We want the story of what’s happening with this family so we know, and that’s kind of how the referral comes,” Fishbaugher said.

Brookings Police Department, Brookings County Sheriff’s Office and Kingsbury County Sheriff’s Office are three of the various participating law enforcement agencies every year.

“It’s heartwarming. It really is. Just to see the joy on the kids’ faces and the excitement. Santa is on hand, so they get to see Santa. We provide face painting as well. Everybody has a good time,” Brookings County deputy sheriff Jeremy Kriese said.

The event includes up to $300 for each participant to spend while shopping. The kids also receive gift cards. Local businesses and private donors typically raise around 20 to 25 thousand dollars to make the event happen.

“The gift cards that they get allow them to go out to eat at one of restaurants here in town, a couple of them actually, and they also get gift cards to go to the movie so they can have a night together as a family in addition to the night where they do the shopping,” said Sandy McClemans, a retired social worker who has been involved with the event since it started.

In addition to shopping, each family also goes home with a cart full of groceries. The items kids pick out are wrapped by volunteers.

“We see kids that sometimes don’t even get gifts for themselves. They think of their family and their brothers and sisters and mom and dad, what they would want,” Kriese said.

“We’ve seen kids buy dog food and microwaves and vacuums and things like that, and they’re thinking about their family,” McClemans said.

The event will happen at the Brookings Walmart this Wednesday.

If you would like to make a donation to Christmas, Kids and Cops, you can send or drop off donations to the Brookings Police Department or Brookings County Sheriff’s Office.