Lee County sheriff's deputies escorted 10 elementary school students around Coconut Point mall on Friday.
But the kids weren't in trouble.
Deputies took the students — winners of an agency-sponsored essay contest — on a $200 shopping spree at Super Target as part of the Bonita Springs Christmas Project. The project is a holiday community outreach effort aimed at helping local children get to know local law enforcement.
"I want kids today ... to feel comfortable with police, that we're here to help them," said Sgt. Brian Przespolewski, who came up with the idea for the contest.
Deputies from the Sheriff's Office's Bonita Springs Community Policing Unit held the essay contest at two Bonita Springs elementary schools — Spring Creek Elementary or Bonita Springs Elementary — asking students to write about what the holidays mean to them.
Students turned in more than 800 essays. Deputies picked 10 winners.
"It really grounds you as a person," Sgt. Jeff Dektas said. "It means a lot for me to take time to do something for the good people."
Twelve deputies read the essays written by students from kindergarten to fourth grade, Dektas. Oddly enough, two deputies picked a pair of brothers, Che Garrido-Giambo, 5, and Tony Garrido-Giambo, 9, unknowingly, Detkas said.
"That just speaks values to the family life, education they both are getting," Detkas said about the brothers winning. "It's a really cool thing."
The students began their day at the Delta District office on Bonita Beach Road where they selected gifts for their siblings. Kids who picked bikes had to spend some of their prize money on purchasing safety gear, like helmets.
From there they traveled to Super Target.
While crunching on potato chips from his Target-provided lunch, Tony Garrido-Giambo said his wish list was just about complete.
"I got CDs, movies and a helicopters," he said.
His brother, Che, said he picked out a spy kit and a watch, but is waiting for Santa to bring him a shark-tooth necklace.
Przespolewski said he was proud of the way the kids responded to the effort. As part of the project, the Bonita deputies also adopted three families for the holidays and collected gifts for older children. All of the money and gifts were donated.