Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 | 3:05 p.m.
Later in the day Junaisy Vargas would be back at the hospital for her 15th chemotherapy session, but Wednesday morning the 5-year-old girl had the chance to just be a kid, clothed from head to toe in pink, her favorite color, as she patrolled the aisles of Target looking for toys and pants.
Her parents, Antonio and Glenda Vargas, heard of the annual “Shop With a Cop” event put on by the North Las Vegas Police Department through the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation. It was an opportunity to have $250 to spend on their daughter, who 10 months ago was diagnosed with sarcoma on her pelvis.
“It’s a big help,” Antonio Vargas said of the free holiday shopping spree. “As a parent, we try to do the best for our daughter, but sometimes, things are out of our hands. She’s happy. She’s really happy.”
Each year officers – fathers and mothers among them – put aside their licensed lethal weapons to go to the department store to wear reindeer antlers. There, they shop with children, some with terminal illnesses and others who have families who can’t afford holiday gifts.
North Las Vegas’ “Shop with a Cop” event is in its 24th year and has been based at the Target at 2189 W. Craig Road for four years in a row. A $2,500 donation from Target and fundraising events in the past six months raised more than $17,000 for 52 children to buy toys, snacks and clothes. Each child and their family also received a boxed meal.
This year Junaisy was happy to get cookies and cupcakes, but Det. Sayoko Wilson, who was assigned to shop with Junaisy and her mother, steered the girl back to the clothes.
“Do you want to find some shirts?” Wilson said.
Junaisy's mother repeated the question in Spanish.
“Oh, si!” the girl said as the little tassel on her hat shook back and forth.
As the trio walked toward the shirts with a cart laden with items, Junaisy pointed to a sweater and said: “My mom got me one of these when I was a kid. I’m a big girl.”
The smile on the little girl’s face as she shopped is why Wilson takes part in the event.
“She wasn’t even looking for herself. She was concerned about her mom getting stuff,” Wilson said.
The event started at 6 a.m. and gave kids the chance to sit on Santa’s lap, watch a parade of police vehicles with the sirens blaring and lights ablaze, and a moment alone to get to know a person from law enforcement.
Portland Preston, a crime prevention specialist and self-described “people person,” has been organizing the event since 2009.
“I love people, I love kids,” she said. “I like things that make me smile on the inside. This makes me smile on the inside.”
As the event came to a close, Keil Ahenakew, a bailiff at the Justice Court, was happy to volunteer for the first time. The kids have enough problems, he said. As he was getting ready to leave, he handed the family he had helped to shop a $50 Target gift certificate.
“This is from me,” he said.