By Daniel Langhorne
Santa Claus gave his reindeer the day off a couple of Sundays ago and hitched a ride aboard West County SWAT’s BearCat armored vehicle to the Westminster Police Officers’ Association’s 15th annual Shop with a Cop event.
Escorted by three motorcycle officers with sirens blaring, Santa dismounted to give high fives to the police officers and children who lined up outside a local Walmart to meet him before the shopping spree.
Cadets from the Criminal Justice Center at Golden West College in Huntington Beach joined Westminster police officers in helping pick and buy presents for 27 children who were either nominated by the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster or nominated by officers who met families struggling and in need, Det. Norma Vasquez said.
“It obviously makes us feel good knowing how some people view cops lately that we’re able to something good and help the community,” Vasquez said.
This is the fifth year Vasquez has helped coordinate Shop with a Cop and every time she enjoys seeing the smiling faces of kids who would otherwise go without presents this year.
Westminster Police Chief Ralph Ornelas said collaboration with organizations like Walmart and the Boys & Girls Club made it possible for his officers to help make the kids’ Christmas dreams come true.
“It makes my heart happy because giving them something special this time of year makes them excited about life and know that someone cares about them,” Ornelas said.
Like the other police staff at Shop with a Cop, Officer Christian Hernandez showed up on his time off to shop with Daniel Corrales, 9, who went home with the video game Fortnite for Xbox One. Two police cadets helped pushed Daniel’s shopping cart while he and Hernandez scoured store shelves for the perfect gift.
He said donating time off at his first Shop with a Cop event was a small thing to give back to the community he patrols.
“A lot of the times we’re able to contact kids but it’s not on positive terms, but here we’re able to start on a positive note,” Hernandez said.
Aylinn Huerta, 12, was selected to be a part of Shop with a Cop for a second year. Last year, Aylinn picked art supplies to draw a galaxy that she gave to her teacher as a Christmas present. This time she continued the tradition by getting a canvas and sharpies to draw a picture of her parents that she planned to give them.
“My art is peace for me,” she said. “Any time I’m stressed, I draw something and I feel better.”
Aylinn also took a Walmart gift card home to her brother who couldn’t be there for the shopping spree.
After getting their photo taken with Santa and the police officer they shopped with, each kid was also sent home with a stocking filled with an Orange, candy, pencils, a velvet art poster, chips, and other holiday treats.