Isabella climbed onto Santa’s lap and asked for a doll that drinks, walks, eats — and cries.
The second grader’s dad passed away unexpectedly two months ago.
“It’s been rough,” said her mom Nichole Werner, who also has two teens.
So she was grateful when she got a call from Isabella’s school saying that the family had been adopted by the Fullerton Police Department for Christmas.
“It means a lot because it’s something special for the kids,” she said.
The Fullerton PD on Friday, Dec. 18 adopted 18 families this year, all recommended by local schools.
Families arrived Friday morning for breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a Fullerton couple who donates their time.
Fullerton Crime Analyst Tamara Otley showed up with 25 batches of a pancake recipe passed down by her grandfather, who owned a hunting lodge on the East Coast back in the day. And retired senior volunteers Dave Everitt and Steve Zerga turned the batter into a few hundred flap-jacks on a patio grill.
Back inside, a break room had been transformed into a festive dining hall. Christmas carols played, a tree twinkled and tables were set with red tablecloths. There was hot coffee and sausages and cinnamon buns.
After breakfast, families were escorted to another room for pictures with Santa and his spouse. Kids got to pick an item from piles of stuffed animals and toy cars.
“I think it’s cool that they got the kids gifts,” said Saul Elias, who happened to be one of those kids.
Debbie Deleon, 19, was there with her two younger siblings and her mom, who she translated for. “Her kids are happy and that makes her happy,” Debbie said.
Families were sent home with boxes packed with presents to open on Christmas morning. Some families didn’t have cars, so police personnel drove the boxes to their homes.
Sgt. Kathryn Hamel thanked the community for contributing many of the gifts, from brand-new bicycles to baseball bats and board games. The Der Kleiner Panzers car club held a toy drive in Fullerton earlier this month, handing over what they collected to the police department to make sure it got to the right kids.
“It’s fun for us,” said Capt. Scott Rudisil. “To welcome these families into our police department … we’re able to help out in a small way.”