Nine-year-old Riley Giles was waiting for awards to be announced after performing in the 2019 Showstopper dance competition in Anaheim.
While she might have been expecting to receive an award for dancing, she was not expecting 14 Anaheim police officers to be waiting for her with a special surprise.
Riley’s mother was in the crowd supporting her, but someone else was missing — her father.
Riley’s dad, Johnathan (Jon) Giles, was a corporal at the Lemoore Police Department when he took his own life on November 7 last year, leaving behind his wife, son, and Riley.
“In law enforcement there’s a big stigma when it comes to suicide but people have to understand that we deal with a lot of tragic events and unfortunately it can take a toll on people,” Anaheim Police Officer John Yoo said. “It’s a problem that’s not just going to go away and needs to be dealt with. Officers can’t just let it fester.”
What most do not know is that more police officers took their own lives last year than were killed by a suspect.
While 150 police officers died in the line of duty, an additional 159 police officers died by suicide last year, including Giles.
An organization called Blue_Wives_Matter had reached out to the Anaheim Police Department, told them that Riley would be performing at the Disneyland Hotel on May 25, and asked if there was anything they could do to show support for her.
With less than 24 hours to prepare, the department happily took on the request.
“I mean, you name it, everyone who could step up, stepped up,” Yoo said. “It wasn’t just the [police department], it was Blue_Wives_Matter, it was Disney, it was Showstoppers, and it was really touching.”
The plan was to wait backstage before the awards were to be announced. Then the host would call Riley up and the officers would come out and present gifts like flowers, rose gold Mickey Mouse ears, a shirt, a special challenge coin, and more to Riley.
“We just grabbed as many people as we could to show our support for her,” Yoo said.
That night after all the dancers had finished performing, Showstoppers host Julian Thorn called Riley up on stage.
“Riley, we have some special friends here today who really want to come out and say something to you, are you ready for that?” he asked.
Riley nodded yes.
Fourteen Anaheim police officers emerged from behind the curtains.
“One of the things that the Anaheim Police Department believes in is we’re here for you, the community, and talking about community, one word that comes to the Anaheim Police Department’s mind is family,” Sgt. Chris Cooper said. “We wanted to make sure that our family, Riley, knows that we’re here supporting her and it doesn’t matter where she goes, if she comes to Anaheim, if she goes to L.A., her family will always be here supporting her.”
Riley and her mother, Crystal, were thankful for the support of the Anaheim Police Department.
“They came out to support her and show her that her blue family supports her,” Crystal Giles said. “Thank you all very much.”
Riley walked up to each individual officer and was given a hug, a gift, and words of encouragement.
“No one could ever say that there are not fine people in this world and they’re doing positive things because this is the example of it today,” Thorn said. “So show them the love… We thank you, we honor you guys, and we honor all the work you have done.”