Police spread cheer with Operation Santa
December 20, 2009 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- During tough economic times, gifts under the Christmas tree are no longer taken for granted. But imagine what it's like for child who has lost a parent.
Over the weekend, one group tried to make the holidays a little easier for them.
The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation was remembering the families of officers who were killed or injured while on duty with "Operation Santa."
Children from 18 families were included this year.
It is a special operation only one man can complete, with some help.¤
"We're trying to bring some Christmas cheer and let them know we all love them," Santa Claus told ABC7 Chicago.
Sunday morning, it was an early Christmas for the children of slain Chicago police officer Ben Perez. As relatives and their police family looked on, 7-year-old Ben, 8-year-old Becky, and 16-year-old Katarina opened their presents.
But with the smiles and faces of joy were thoughts of a father not forgotten.
"It's really great to have Santa and Mrs. Claus and elves and the police officers come and give us gifts. We really appreciate it so much, and we're so grateful for that," said Katarina Vinyard-Perez.
Retired and off-duty officers participating in Operation Santa spent Saturday and Sunday visiting 32 kids of eight families of Chicago police officers who were killed or catastrophically injured in the performance of their duties.
"They want to do this because they know it's bringing joy to these families," said Phil Cline of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. "These kids were jut thrilled to get gifts, and it shows them, their parents, grandparents, we're never going to forget these kids."
Police officer Cedric Brumley Sr. agrees.
"They do what we are not able to do anymore," he said.
Brumley became disabled in August 2002 while responding to a call, but Sunday, he watched his son and daughter celebrate the holidays.
"I'm really happy and really thankful," said an excited Calyn Brumley as she opened her gifts.
And that does wonders for Officer Edward Langle who, for the three years of the event, has volunteered as one of Santa's elves.
"This is really good. You get a lot back from it. It lifts the spirit of Christmas in you," said Langle.
The officers say the comments they get about the red tights can be surprising, but that's another story.
They say their efforts are a small way they can make kids and their families happy and remind everyone else who makes the ultimate sacrifice in the city's protection. Current police Supt. Jody Weis also visited with the officers.
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