Bealls Outlet supports the Shop with a Cop event.
It was a different experience for Carlos E. Haile Middle School student Ryan Gossett as he did his back-to-school shopping Aug. 9.
At his side stood Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, who hunted for Ryan’s size in long khaki pants, eventually handing him a pair from a rack at the Bealls Outlet in Bradenton.
“These are in fashion, aren’t they?” Wells asked.
He said Wells had a good sense of style — after all, Wells has a 10-year-old son, Brody.
“It’s pretty cool,” Ryan said of shopping with the sheriff.
Thirteen children, including Ryan, shopped with Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies at Bealls Outlet during the Shop with a Cop event.
Each was fitted with about five outfits and shoes. The Sheriff’s Office also provided backpacks filled with school supplies.
“It’s so important for us to help the community in any way we can,” Wells said. “We know there’s a need. To be able to help them today is heartwarming.”
He said studies show children feel more confident when they are dressed well and ready for school.
“It’s important for (children) to feel good about themselves,” Wells said. “When they start school, the only thing they have to worry about is learning.”
Bealls Inc., spokeswoman Karen Filips said Bealls has partnered with the Sheriff’s Office on similar events for at least a decade.
She said Bealls corporate office recently completed a school supply drive and donated the items from it to the Sheriff’s Office.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Rick Gerkin said the Sheriff’s Office also has 1,000 backpacks, thanks to an anonymous donor, filled with supplies for deputies to distribute as needed.