The Gwinnett County Police Department used National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day to celebrate others.
On Thursday, a group of about 19 police officers turned on the lights of their cop cars and lined the entrance to Academy Sports + Outdoors in Buford to welcome Special Olympics athletes from South Gwinnett High School.
The store and police department partnered to provide the athletes with the unique opportunity to shop with a cop ahead of the State Indoor Winter Games in Cobb County, which will take place this weekend.
Players from the 17-and-older and 22-and-older Special Olympics of Georgia basketball teams were each given $100 Academy gift cards to spend on new apparel, footwear, basketball equipment and more — all while shopping alongside a police officer.
Academy Sports + Outdoors also donated $500 to the Gwinnett County Police Foundation in honor of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day to help support officers and their families, as well as to purchase supplies needed for initiatives and events that foster relationships with local communities.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Regional Marketing Specialist Cody Reid said it was an honor for the store to fully fund the event on Thursday. Since it opened in September, it has been committed to directly supporting first responders.
Master Police Officer Michael Parker said some of the officers even gave up some of their personal time just to participate in the shopping spree with the athletes.
“I just want to thank them from South Gwinnett High School and the special education department for allowing us to be a part of the event,” said Amanda Hilliman, special education teacher at South Gwinnett High School. “The athletes were very excited when they got off the bus to see the lights and all the officers clapping for them. I think it’s really great that they’re giving back to not just the community and the schools, but for special needs children as well.”
Hilliman said the shopping spree was a great opportunity for some of the athletes to purchase apparel and shoes for future games — things they previously had to borrow.
Special Olympics athlete Emijay Nesbit, who plays shooting guard and point guard, purchased items such as a blue raspberry-flavored mouthpiece and shorts. He said he had a great experience shopping with Crime Prevention Police Officer Yhosvely Taveras.
“It’s my first time doing it this year, so it’s very eye-opening,” Taveras said. “And I used to play basketball, so we kind of relate to certain stuff as well.”
Reid joked that the cops probably enjoyed the shopping spree more than the kids. He said they were all smiling and enjoying their time.
“I think the turnout was great,” he said. “Looking around at all of the smiling faces, they were just walking the store and taking it all in. I think it was a little bit of a surprise to them to be able to come into a store like this where there’s such a big assortment. We see a lot of full bags going out the door, so that’s always good is when they really take their time and pick out all the items that they want.”