'Dunk a Cop' helps fund worthy cause

Friday, September 2, 2016

Officers will be making a splash at the Carroll County Fair this weekend.

The Merlin Foundation has partnered with area law enforcement agencies for the "Dunk a Cop" fundraiser. The event will take place from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, and Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Carroll County Fair Grounds.

Officers from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, the Berryville Police Department, the Eureka Springs Police Department and the Green Forest Police Department will all be taking turns in the dunking booth. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the "Shop with a Cop" program, which helps children in need have a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Berryville Police Chief Robert Bartos said the agencies work in conjunction with Walmart for the "Shop with a Cop" program. It was started in the 1980s by Merlin Leach, who founded the Merlin Foundation, and former Berryville Police Chief David Muniz, Bartos said, and helps kids whose families cannot otherwise afford Christmas gifts.

"The program has been running for several years now," he said. "It's great for two reasons: It gives kids a good Christmas, and the kids build relationships with the cops.."

Bartos continued, "Some don't have the best attitude toward police officers because of other family members' experiences, so this gives the kids a chance to see us in a different light."

Michelle Steiner, executive director of the Merlin Foundation, said "Shop with a Cop" was one of Leach's big projects each year.

"He always made sure to take care of it. He really enjoyed the event," Steiner said.

She said the foundation is regrouping to fill the shoes of Leach, who passed away in June. The Merlin Foundation is still active, Steiner said, and will continue Leach's legacy in Carroll County.

"His loss has been earthshaking all around, and I know many are wondering what's going on with the Merlin Foundation," she said. "We are stepping up and will continue to work on filling in the gaps for kids' needs."

Steiner said the "Shop with a Cop" program is a great example of the Merlin Foundation's work to bring the community together to help kids in need.

"I have had several cops sign up to get dunked because they love the program, too," she said. "It really is a neat experience to watch all the little kids get to shop with the officers. Both parties start off shy around each other, but, by the end, everyone is having a great time."

Steiner said representatives from the Merlin Foundation will be at the fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday handing out information about their organization and taking donations.

"We hope everyone will come join in the fun for a great cause," she said. "Your time and a little bit of water can help make Christmas merry for a child who might not have one otherwise."

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