Once Santa checked off his list of naughty and nice, Coachella Valley police officers helped deliver the toys.
(Wade Byars, The Desert Sun)
The California Highway Patrol, which will continue collecting toys through tonight, estimates it will also deliver as many as 5,000 toys to nonprofit groups in the valley by the end of the month.
“This is by far the most memorable Christmas season that I've ever experienced in my career,” spokesman Officer John Quintero said. “It's something that you can't put an earthly tag on.”
With donations from residents across the valley, firefighters and police conducted their annual toy drives — and this year some added a special twist to their deliveries.
Santa and Mrs. Claus delivered 28 brand-new bicycles and helmets to children at a Palm Springs City Council meeting because of donations to the police department.
Deputies at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in Palm Desert — who oversee police services in Indian Wells, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage — took 43 children to Toys R Us. Each child was given $100 to buy bicycles, toys or video games.
Police there then used the remaining money to buy eight bicycles, drive around Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage and hand the bikes off to children without one.
Desert Hot Springs police officers paired up with more than 50 children for the department's first “Shop with a Cop” day. Those children were given a mini shopping spree at K-Mart. The department also hosted a toy give-away, when about 75 children selected gifts from nearly 300 donated toys.
The Indio station — where deputies oversee Coachella and La Quinta police services — raised more than $5,500 and also sent officers to shop alongside children.
Cathedral City Police Officer's Association raised enough money to buy $200 gift cards for 54 children.
The toy drives allow firefighters and police to serve the community in a different way than the rest of the year, said Ben Guitron, spokesman for Indio police, who helped coordinate toy donations for more than 1,000 children.
He said he hopes the toy drives offer compassion and hope to children who might otherwise go without — and to the officers, too.
“Throughout the year, we see so much need, and suffering, and sacrifices, and victims of crime,” Guitron said.
“We just see so much of the other side of life that it's nice we can see there is good and people do have the heart to care. We just have to stop and recognize it.”
How to help
California Highway Patrol will continue collecting donations for its holiday toy drive through the end of today, Christmas Eve.
New, unwrapped presents can be dropped off at the highway patrol office at 79650 Varner Road in Indio. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.
Starbucks locations will also serve as drop-off sites. Several locations in the Coachella Valley reported their hours would be 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today.
Information: (760) 772-8911
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