CALEXICO – The Calexico Police Department came together with volunteers Thursday morning to treat local children to a Christmas shopping spree. The annual “Kids-N-Badges” gave 30 children a chance to choose gifts for themselves, with the help of police officers, sergeants, lieutenants, motorcycle cops, explorers, reserves and volunteers.
Calexico Police Department (CPD) Sergeant Victor Legaspi has been the lead organizer of “Kids N Badges” for the past fourteen years, since its inception in 2002.
“This event is very dear to my heart, especially today since we have two siblings participating who recently lost their mother to cancer,” said Legaspi, a tragedy which was “especially personal for me because of my mom.”
The annual event began early morning, where children along with their chaperones enjoyed a free breakfast provided by the local McDonald’s restaurant, a parter which has helped sponsor this event for the last four years.
“It feels great to have the opportunity to help the community and partnering with the school district and the police officers,” said Emmanuel Leon, director of operations at McDonald’s.
“We have been in this community since 1976 and this is a way of thanking the community for their continued support and giving back. We love our community.”
After breakfast, children hopped into the patrol vehicles, each with a $100 gift card in hand. The children were paraded over to the Walmart Supercenter where Santa arrived in a REACH helicopter, not his traditional sleigh. The children had the opportunity to meet and take pictures with him prior to heading into the store.
For the past eight years, REACH has donated their time to transported Santa Claus to the Walmart during the event.
Santa reminded the children Christmas was about love for one another and said the police officers were his heroes.
Funds ($3,000) were raised through the CPD, Police Officers Association, and public and private donations from the community.
“We partnered up with the Calexico School District and with their resources identified the children that would benefit the most this,” said Reggie Gomez, Chief of Police.
“This was a joint effort between the CPD, Walmart, and the Police Officers Association, who contributed funding to help match the funding for the thirty students. All of our officers here today are volunteers.”
Teamed up with their chaperones, kids scurried around the store, particularly to the toy section, in search of the perfect Christmas present. Among the most popular items were bicycles, Ninja Turtles, Shopkins, Barbie dolls, balls, and video games.
Five-year-old, Ernesto Martinez who was chaperoned by Officer Brian Porras, was excited to buy Ninja Turtles and swords.
“This is my eighth year participating however, this year it is more sentimental due to the fact that his (Ernesto) mother passed” said Porras. “I want to make this a little more special for him. Seeing him smile and be happy about getting toys during this time of the season is awesome.”
Officer Celia Romero assisted 10-year-old Emily Velazquez, Dool Elementary student who said this year she asked Santa for good health and happiness.
“I have a Pug name Chocoron so I am getting a Pug pillow that my dog and I can share, also want a watch and board games” said Emily, Ernesto’s sister.
Romero has participated in Kids-N-Badges for the past eight years and said she enjoys being there for the kids during the holiday seasons.
“I’m glad I was able to participate and make this a special day for her even if it’s just for one day” said Romero. “I want to make sure she gets what she wants.”
Chaperoned by Officer Peter West, 6-year-old Angel Torres was ecstatic with the bike he chose along with a matching helmet.
“I feel really good seeing him smile,” said West. “This program is great. Not only do we help underprivileged kids, but we also make their Christmas better in a sense. We have the ability to get them what they want and make them happy. Every kid wants something for Christmas and sometimes parents can’t afford to get them what they want. It brings joy to my heart seeing him happy.”
“My wallet is ready to go!” added West.