Aniya Jenkins practically squealed with delight as she picked out the latest tablet from Amazon at the Target on Millerville Road Friday morning. The 11-year-old called over her entourage — her mom, grandmother, aunt, baby sister, and teacher from Scotlandville Middle School, who doubles as a reserve deputy with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office —with one shout: "Ma!"
Aniya grinned while sliding expertly through the functions on the device, which soon became her first choice for the day's shopping spree. Later would come a new bracelet, hair clips, pajamas, and multiple bags of Cheetos.
"I wanted our kids to get a chance to participate in this," said Kenya Huggins, Aniya's special education teacher at Scotlandville Middle School and a reserve deputy. "I wanted them to experience it."
Aniya was one of 35 youth from across the parish nominated by schools and community organizations to receive a $150 Target gift card to "shop with a cop," an ongoing partnership between the business and the Sheriff's Office during the holidays.
Aniya, one of six children, has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition which affects her development and can cause medical problems. This past summer she had heart surgery, her mom said, which briefly slowed the typically-energetic girl.
But Friday, Aniya was only full of smiles, pointing to whatever caught her eye at the Super Target on Millerville Road.
"This is just too sweet," said Aniya's mom, Nina Lee. "I hope she gets to do it every year."
Lee said she plans to wrap the tablet for Christmas, something she had planned to give to her daughter, but now won't have to feel the financial strain.
"She's going to be very excited," Lee said, predicting they will hear a lot of Katy Perry play.
Charles Herrington, 14, was also chosen to participate in the program. With his grandfather and Deputy Kade Babin, the Northeast High Schooler picked out an LSU hat — he's a big football fan — and few toy trucks, as well as an Advent Calendar.
It was Herrington's first time at a Target, and after exploring the Super Target, all Herrington could say was: "Amazing!"
The whole trip, Aniya's grandmother followed close behind her cart, watching her granddaughter relish in the attention and possibilities.
"This is a blessing here," said Valda Shelmire, Aniya's grandmother. "It really is."