The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 3, 2011

It’s all fun and backup for these heroes

MANKATO — Anarchy would reign on the streets and highways of south-central Minnesota if local law enforcement officers were always the pushovers on display at Walmart Saturday morning.

Speeders? They’d get off with a “Slow down a little bit, honey. Not so fast.”

Shoplifters? “Just one more thing and then we have to go,” officers would say.

Bank robbers? They’d be asked politely not to take all the cash: “We have to leave something for Santa to bring you.”

Rowdies failing to obey a lawful command? After five or six attempts, the officer would say, “Well, OK,” and buy them some Hello Kitty underwear and two or three packages of Squinkies.

The law enforcement softy responsible for all those words was Mankato patrol officer Tiffany Blaschko, who was in her fifth year of the “Shop With a Hero” program at Walmart. Blaschko met Lindsey Dupraz’s two daughters at about 7:30 a.m., and her fate appeared to be sealed around about 7:35.

Four-year-old Maya was sitting on one knee, her arm around Blaschko, and 9-year-old Ashlynn was on the other. All around them, cops, state troopers, deputies and a few firefighters were getting to know the kids they’d be escorting through the massive discount store in search of presents for themselves and their loved ones.

By 7:45 a.m., they were on the move. Ashlynn and Maya immediately exceeded the speed limit with Blaschko racing behind, pushing the shopping cart.

Most of the 20 kids at the event had been suggested to the “Shop With a Hero” organizers by the Salvation Army, or county human services departments in Blue Earth and Waseca counties, said Detective Commander Matt DuRose of the Mankato Department of Public Safety. A few were identified by local police.

Essentially, they were kids from families going through a tough time, families that might appreciate a little help making this Christmas more special. The program has been an annual tradition organized by Mankato police and the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office for nearly two decades.

For the complete story, see Sunday's print edition or e-edition.

 

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