More than 40 kids were treated to an early Christmas recently by members of the sheriff's department this week.
The sheriff's department's contract police departments from Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage all helped make the Christmas dreams come true for a total of 47 youth on Saturday, Dec. 8, by taking them shopping for $100 worth of gifts each at Walmart.
"A caravan of black and white patrol cars with lights and sirens was escorted by police motorcycles into the Walmart parking lot as the parents, children and store staff eagerly looked on," Sheriff's Sergeant Brad Farwell said. "The children were treated to a personal safety fair as they climbed on the motorcycles, sat in police cars and took photographs in front the store with McGruff and Santa."
Twenty-three local police officers, along with Palm Desert Station Explorers and Palm Desert Citizen's on Patrol, took the children around Walmart to pick out their gifts.
In total, $6,165.00 was donated by Walmart, the City of Palm Desert, the City of Rancho Mirage and the City of Indian Wells, according to Farwell. Leftover money-- along with "spontaneous donations" by Walmart shoppers who witnessed Saturday's event-- was used to purchase bicycles and more toys to be distributed to other community children, he added.
"This year's event went extremely well and the expressions on the children's and officer's faces were filled with joy," Farwell said. "This event allowed officers the opportunity to share a special day with these children and their families under a positive set of circumstances. Rarely are we able to exchange the smiles and laughter experienced during this event with the communities we serve and it was welcomed by everyone."
The children were selected for the program based on recommendations by school counselors and school officials and officers "that know theses kids either by dealing with them in calls or at schools," Palm Desert Sergeant Mike Bianco told Palm Desert Patch.
Bianco added that once children were identified for the program, organizers decided to include any siblings as well, so that not just one child in the family received gifts.