“Wow!” Mason shouts as he tears through wrapping to reveal gift after gift.
Toys, clothes, and Christmas wrapping are sprawled across the living room floor as a group of Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies and volunteers watch with smiles as big as young Mason’s and his older siblings, Kayley and Jordan. Their mom, recently widowed, can’t stop smiling either.
On a chilly December 21 evening, the group arrived at the children’s home like uniformed Santas, offering a Christmas that might otherwise not be. OCSD’s annual Adopt-a-Family chooses families in need from the neighborhoods that deputies cover to help make the season bright.
When the families are chosen, the parents are notified and asked to give a Christmas list to deputies. A department will “adopt” the family, pulling together to provide the gifts on the list and deliver them in person.
“Basically, this is a way to give back to the community,” School Resource Officer Michael Sakamoto said. “We’re people too, and they get to see that.”
On the way to a second family’s home, Deputy Eric Ota says he’s surprised by his first Adopt-a-Family experience.
“I didn’t know what to think, but the kids were super excited and that’s great,” Ota said. “I’m definitely glad I decided to do this.”
A single mom and her five kids stand on the patio a few minutes later. Once the youngest child, Luna, opens her present, she breaks into a huge smile and hugs her new doll.
The mom hugs the deputies as they leave.
“It plays a huge part in shaping how they think about the world,” Sakamoto said. “A stranger just gave them a gift. They might not remember me, but they remember the badge and that’s important. This is all about giving.”