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Utah police department takes family holiday shopping after devastating loss

Posted at 9:58 PM, Dec 10, 2022

MIDVALE, Utah — A Utah family moving on from a devastating tragedy was able to experience some holiday joy after Unified Police stepped in — all thanks to a heartfelt email.

“It brought a smile to our faces to know that there’s a community out there that still reaches out and helps those that are less fortunate, or had a tragedy,” said Sonja Washington.

Washington brought her five grandchildren to Walmart in Midvale Saturday morning to shop with the Unified Police Department — filling their shopping carts with gifts for each other.

This was the family’s second time at the “Shopping with the Shield” event — but with their hearts heavier and eyes fuller this time around.

“They lost their mother in August of this year,” explained Washington, who is now fiercely raising her daughter’s children as her own. “Last year this time, she was with us during this event. And this year, she was not. It kind of touches home for us.”

The kids’ mother, Porchia Patterson, was killed in a domestic violence incident in Tooele a few months ago, leaving behind five kids under the age of 17 — and the youngest is a 3-year-old.

“This is something that my daughter enjoyed, and we’ll miss her,” said Washington.

Being able to pick out Christmas presents with police officers by their side was a time the kids loved.

“'Nana, do you think we’ll be able to do it again?'” Washington said the kids asked her a couple of weeks ago when they found photos from this time last year. “I said, 'I don’t know — let’s reach out and find out.' And I reached out and I let them know what had happened, and I didn’t know whether I was going to get a response back or anything. But then when I got the phone call, it was like Christmas in a bottle for me.”

“They sent this email and said, 'We just want to say thank you for bringing some joy and cheer into our lives. We really enjoyed this event and we love you guys so much. Thank you for everything you do,'” said Sgt. Melody Cutler with the Unified Police Department. “But with that, the knowledge that their mother had been murdered, and we honestly could not go without inviting them to come back.”

So with lists in hand and with the biggest smiles on their faces, the kids picked out presents for their siblings and themselves — and brought so much light to everyone they met and interacted with.

“Five young kids who have been through some serious trauma that are so well behaved, so well put together, so grateful,” said Cutler. “When really they have every reason in the world to be angry and hateful, but they’re not. They’re absolutely not — they are full of love and joy.”

“My favorite part of it all is seeing the grandkids' faces,” said Washington. “Seeing their smiles, seeing how everybody remembered. You come across so many people in your lifetime, but you remember them. Made it special for me.”