Pasadena’s scenic Arroyo Seco lends the perfect backdrop for the arrival of the one man who can make anyone, of any age, burst into a smile.
Seven-year-old Mellaniee shades her eyes with one hand as she points to the sky at the helicopter hovering above.
“Look, you can see his red hat,” Mellaniee, age 7, said.
As the Pasadena PD helicopter zig-zags through the sky, a peep of red velvet can be seen through the window as the pilot descends onto its Police Air Operations in Altadena.
The crowd of kids and their parents all clap as the vision of Santa and Mrs. Claus becomes clearer through the windows of the helicopter. The two step out, he in his white-fur-cuffed red trousers, black leather belt and signature red coat.
“Who wants presents?” he asks. The crowd bursts into applause.
For Teresa Deukmedjian, CalWorks Program Coordinator at Peace Over Violence, Pasadena PD’s annual Operation Polar Wind is a highlight for many of the kids and families dealing with crisis during the holiday season.
“This is the 4th year we’ve partnered with the Pasadena PD on this program and it gives so much to all of them,” said Deukmedjian. “You just see their faces and it’s amazing with everything they have been through and everything they have experienced to see them smiling and happy. It’s empowering for all of them.”
Forty families were selected to be a part of the Operation Polar Wind that connects kids with the Pasadena Police Department for an afternoon event that allows children to pick toys handpicked by Pasadena’s Air Operations Team. Footballs, Legos, Hot Wheels and plenty of dolls from the Disney movie Frozen were on many of the ‘wish lists” for the kids.
This year, with the help of 10 other local law enforcement agencies Pasadena PD raised $2,500 to be used just for toys. The neighboring San Gabriel Valley agencies include: South Pasadena, San Marino, Alhambra, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Irwindale, Glendora, Covina and Pomona.
“These kind of events are what really make us love what we do,” said Mark Mendenhall, Pasadena PD Officer for Air Operations Section. “This operation has continued to grow through the years mainly because of the support and (monetary) donations made by members of this Police Department and our regional partners.”
With the $2,500 raised for Operation Polar Wind, the Pasadena PD’s 14th Annual Christmas Toy Drive was divided into two different events. Crew members helped Santa and Mrs. Clause deliver toys to pediatric patients at Huntington Memorial Hospital.
They then flew Santa over to Pasadena PD’s heliport where client families from Peace Over Violence gathered to pick two toys from the bounty of toys set out on three oversized tables. All children got to select two toys and any leftover toys would be passed out by police officers during the holiday season while they were on patrol, according to Officer Ryan Smith.
Sara Flores, who attended the event with her 3-year-old Leo, was celebrating her one-year anniversary as a client with Peace Over Violence. Last Christmas she was facing eviction, going through divorce, dealing with the aftermath of a physically abusive relationship and trying to still be a good mother to Leo who was just a baby.
But this Christmas, she and Leo smiled at Operation Polar Wind, he picked out his toy and Flores hugged him.
“Last year, two days before Christmas my landlord told me to leave, because I couldn’t pay the rent. I was depressed, desperate and very sad … but this year, I have a new apartment, I am going back to school and I am so thankful. So much has changed. “