OTTAWA -- A group of Ottawa Police officers had a special assignment Wednesday, helping to spread Christmas cheer in the capital.

Twenty students from local west end schools were paired up with an officer to spend a $200 mall gift card to Carlingwood Shopping Centre as part of the as part of the annual "CopShop" Initiative. The one day event included being treated to a pizza lunch, a visit with Santa, and a shopping spree.

One student named Mousa says, “I like about Christmas that you can sit on Santa’s lap.”

Cst. Linda Nethercott is one of the organizers and says a lot of officers want to volunteer each year. “We put our message at work that we are looking for volunteers and we always get way more volunteers than spots.”

Cst. Brad Peak says, “It’s important to get in with children at a young age, we want to build relationships so they see us as someone they can come and talk to, someone they can converse with.”

Mousa says police play an important role, “They protect our community and protect our family.”

The kids were chosen by their schools for a variety of reasons from outstanding volunteer work to high achievement. 

Nathalie Lavergne is the marketing director with Carlingwood Shopping Centre. “It’s our way to give back to the community, it’s families that are in our area, and we are happy to be in their lives.”

CopShop began in Halifax in 2005. It has now spread to cities across Canada.