“Look I got a Little Pony named Twilight,” she said with a broad smile. “It’s fun. I didn’t even see the My Little Pony toys, because I was looking the other way. He (Pedersen) helped me.”
Santo was one of 34 second graders who were chosen by officials at Tracy Unified and Jefferson school districts to take part in the event.
The children were selected because they had endured a financial hardship or had displayed good citizenship at their respective schools.
Each child was given a $50 gift card donated by Walmart and distributed by the Tracy Police Department Volunteers In Police Services. Each child shopped with one of the 22 Tracy police officers who volunteered their time.
“It’s always a good reminder of how blessed we are,” said officer Octavio Lopez. “Kids are innocent and it only takes a minute to make a positive impact. It’s a good feeling.”
Children started their morning with a visit with Santa, played by chief of police, Gary Hampton.
Michelle Clark was all smiles as she watched her son Landen wait for his turn to meet Santa.
“I think this is awesome,” she said. “I told him he was doing it because he is doing so good in school. Now he thinks it pays to do good in school. He’s super excited.”
Then it was off to shopping with their assigned officer to search the toy aisles for the perfect gift.
Shelley Hill was accompanied by her 10-year-old son, Bailey Burrows, and his sister, Madison.
“I never heard about this before,” Hill said. “I don’t have lots of money so it’s cool. I’m a single mom. It’s great that these cops do this.”
With thousands of toys to choose from, some of the children found it hard to decide.
“The fun part is helping them pick out toys,” said Sgt. Tony Sheneman, who was happy his seven-year-old shopping partner had chosen a remote control police car. “They tell Santa what they want and then they forget. It’s hard to chose, because they are given the keys to a big toy store.”
At the conclusion of their shopping, the children had breakfast with the officers at McDonald’s, which donated all of the meals.
Cachu said his favorite part of the morning was getting a remote control motorcycle.
“It’s really fun to see the kids get excited,” said officer Steve Blair as he sat at McDonalds with seven-year-old Adrian Cachu. “The enjoyment on their face makes it all worth it.”
“I’ve been doing this since we started and it gets bigger every year,” said officer Tim Bauer, who helped seven-year-old Jesus Guterrez Jr. pick out a Lego SpongeBob and a remote control truck.
“It’s good for the kids to see us in a positive light,” Bauer said. “It’s the whole experience.”
Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.