“I’m a lucky guy.”
That was the simple assessment made by 8-year-old Alan Escobar as he tallied up his gifts Saturday morning and got ready to tuck into a pancake breakfast at IHOP.
Escobar was one of the 15 children chosen by the Grass Valley Police Officers Association for its annual Caring and Sharing program. The program’s Wishing Tree is placed in the lobby of the Grass Valley Police Department, and citizens take a tag from the tree with the child’s name, gender, age and wish-list item. Community members also donate money, which was used by the association for “Shop with a Cop” Saturday.
By 6 a.m., volunteers from the community, as well as Grass Valley Police officers and Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies, were on hand at Kmart to greet the children for their shopping spree; parents were told to come pick them up after breakfast, which was donated by IHOP.
One by one, the children were paired off with volunteers, who this year included Grass Valley Downtown Association Executive Director Julia Jordan and councilwoman Jan Arbuckle.
Some of the pint-size shoppers seemed overwhelmed with the prospect of having $40 to spend as they wished, while others knew exactly what they wanted.
And some, like Evan Martinez, 9, came prepared with a list of others they wanted to shop for. Evan found gifts for her dad, mom, two brothers and younger sister, not spending any of the money on herself. But the prospect of being able to play Santa for her family clearly was more important.
Dereck Lopez, 12, picked out a number of Legos but had to leave behind a larger Super Heroes set because he was over budget. He was all smiles later, however, after Santa showed up at the IHOP breakfast and brought him that exact same set.
Escobar was pretty happy, too, after he picked out toys, including Bey Blades, and also won one of three bicycles being raffled off.
“Me? Me? Oh my gosh,” he exclaimed when they called his name for the raffle.
He was thrilled to get a sleeping bag from Santa — and seemed overwhelmed when Grass Valley Police Officer Zack LaFerriere tracked down a few more wrapped presents for him.
According to Officer Jim Amaral, so much money was donated by the community this year that not only did every child get $40 to spend, but every family received a turkey dinner, purchased from SPD.
And this year, for the first time, the police officers association is bringing dinner — and presents — to two families Friday.
“We got some referrals on some families that are struggling,” Amaral said. “We’re providing a gift for each person in the family, and officers in uniform are bringing them dinner — we’re bringing Christmas to them.”
According to Amaral, the mother of one of those families is battling cervical cancer while her husband works two jobs; the kids, meanwhile, are maintaining stellar grades.
“It just warms my heart (to be able to help),” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.