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      Operation T.O.Y.S. helps children have a very merry Christmas

      Dozens of local kids and their families will have gifts under the tree for Christmas this year, thanks to some mid-Missouri law enforcement agencies and donors.

      It was all thanks to an event called Operation T.O.Y.S.

      It was still dark out Saturday morning when children arrived at Kmart in Jefferson City in patrol cars with sirens blaring.

      After all the cars were lined up in Kmart TMs parking lot they were greeted by a special visitor, Santa Claus.

      "That was cool!" Operation T.O.Y.S. shopper Nautica Johnson said.

      The children, volunteers, law enforcement officers and Kmart employees were all there for Operation T.O.Y.S., which stand for take our youth shopping.

      It TMs an event that TMs been going on for more than 20 years.

      What it's designed to do is take those young people that are less fortunate especially in these times that we've got right now, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Tim Hull said. It TMs great being able to give them a Christmas, something that they can remember and enjoy, rather than something they are going to have a bad memory of, we're trying to make good memories for these kids and help their parents out at the same time."

      Each child was paired up with a law enforcement officer to help them pick out the perfect gifts.

      "It TMs an amazing experience, it's awesome, the kids enjoy it, and they have a really good time, Cole County Sheriff TMs Deputy Tiffany Luetjen said It's good to see them smile for a really good cause.

      The children got gift cards to shop with and the store to themselves.

      While they had access to anything in the store, of course the most popular area was the toy section.

      For Jonathan Brockes, 6, action figures and all things boy were at the top of his list, but for Nautica Johnson, 7, it was anything Barbie.

      While the kids had fun, so did the officers with them.

      "It TMs enjoyable no matter which end of it you're on, whether you're on the planning end of it or you're actually taking the young person shopping, it's a lot of fun," Hull said.

      It was dark outside when the little shoppers got to Kmart, empty handed, but when it was time to leave, the sun was out and their shopping bags were full, ready to go under the Christmas tree.

      Officers from the Jefferson City Police Department, Cole County Sheriff's Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Capitol Police, Lincoln University Police Department, and Missouri Department of Corrections participated in Saturday TMs event.

      It was all possible thanks to donations from several different organizations including Lodge 19 of the Fraternal Order of Police, Missouri State Trooper Association, (Troop F, GHQ, and Command chapters), Jefferson City Jaycees, Jefferson City Correctional Center/ Algoa Correctional Center staff donations, Jefferson City Kmart, Probation & Parole Personnel Club.