PANAMA CITY BEACH — There are just a few days left to help the Beach Police spread holiday cheer to children in need.
According to Lt. Tommy Anderson, donations for the 2022 Cops n' Kids toy drive will be collected until Friday afternoon at Walmart locations off Back Beach Road and Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach.
"Everybody needs some help, it's not just kids, but this event focuses in on them," Anderson said. "I know how I would feel if my child didn't get what they wanted for Christmas. It would break my heart. If we as a law enforcement agency can meet the need of a kid, make them have a better day and put a smile on their face, there's nothing better."
The majority of children who receive gifts through the drive range from about 5 years old to 13 years old. Anderson said the department also includes other struggling children whom it hears about in the community.
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As of Tuesday, the drive, which began collecting donations Nov. 25, had garnered more than 500 toys.
Anderson noted all donations should be new, unwrapped toys. In addition to donation sites at the two local Walmarts, toys also can be brought to the department at 17115 Panama City Beach Parkway.
He said members of the Beach Police will begin delivering the toys to the homes of select children about a week before Christmas. The drive began about 30 years ago, and it also distributes food baskets throughout the community.
"It's just people helping people, and we really love to help the youth of the community," Anderson said.
Looking ahead, he noted the department is gearing up to host another holiday-themed event designed to help law enforcement build relationships with children and their families.
Dubbed the second annual Christmas with Cops, the event will be held Dec. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Panama City Beach Municipal Complex, 17007 Panama City Beach Parkway.
The family-fun event will boast smores, a Santa, picture opportunities and members of the Beach Police and Panama City Beach Fire Rescue.
"Anytime we can connect with the youth in a positive way, (it's great)," Anderson said. "Law enforcement, unfortunately, gets shown in a bad light a lot, and (we want) the youth to see police as somebody who really cares about them and somebody who wants to help them."
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Panama City Beach police collecting donations for Cops n' Kids toy drive