The men in black hats were back.
Less than five months after they visited young patients at CHOC Children’s, handing out plush horses to kids at the hospital in Orange, members of the Anaheim PD’s mounted unit — wearing black hats and jeans and boots — returned Tuesday with more horse toys, in addition to a gift to the CHOC Children’s Foundation.
The Nov. 3 visit was part of the mounted unit’s effort to better connect with the community — and give back to it — as it celebrates its 20th year.
Prior to bringing smiles to the faces of several patients on CHOC Children’s oncology unit, the officers presented a $1,000 check to foundation officials across the street — money that came from a car-show fundraiser the mounted unit held in August.
“Hopefully, this is just the first of many (checks),” Lt. Chris Pena said.
Sgt. Rodney Duckwitz then presented the check to Monique Bates, manager of community relations for the CHOC Children’s Foundation, as several foundation employees looked on and applauded.
“As we move into the holiday season,” Pena said, “it’s super important to look at ways to give not only from our wallets, but also our hearts.”
APD Capt. Ben Hittesdorf then joined a handful of officers on the 10-member mounted unit as they walked across the street to visit a half-dozen children in their rooms and playrooms at the children’s hospital.
Maria Suleiman, 7, of Anaheim was enjoying a visit with Spice, a therapy dog, in a playroom when the APD cops ambled in to greet her and present her with a plush horse.
A delighted Maria then began rubbing the horse against Spice’s belly.
“He likes it!” Maria said as she giggled away as her mother, Gamela Alawneh, looked on with a big smile.
Justin Gonzalez, 4, was enjoying a graham cracker dipped in milk when Anderson visited him in his room.
He shyly accepted the horse and got back to his snack.
“We normally ride our horses,” Pena told a 15-year-old boy in another room.
“Here’s a picture of me with my horse,” added Duckwitz, who then handed the boy a card with a photo of his horse, Tucker, and information about Tucker with the message, “There’s no right way to do the wrong thing.”
The 15-year-old asked his mother to snap a few pictures of him with the two officers.
“Hang in there bud, OK?” Pena told the boy.
“Come up with a good name for your horse,” Duckwitz said.
“I’m going to name him Bullseye,” said the boy, referring to the horse character in the movie “Toy Story.”
In another room, Hittesdorf greeted a girl in her bed.
“Hi, I’m Ben. How old are you?
“Six,” replied Arianna Sanchez.
She gave the captain a high-five.
Officer Eric Anderson visited a 3-year-old boy from England who fell ill while visiting relatives in Dana Point.
Anderson spent several minutes with the boy, Amos, who along with his mother was delighted by the surprise visit.
“Just to see that smile on his face was amazing,” Anderson said after the visit. “What gets me is here’s this kid who is so young going through such a hard time, and here we adults complain about the (small) things.
“This really puts things in perspective.”
To read about the mounted unit’s visit to CHOC in June, click here.