It was evident on all faces that early morning — from the gleeful faces of children ready to pick out their own holiday goodies, to volunteers and first responders eager to help local kids, Holiday with a Hero was magical.
For the fourth year, the Susanville Police Officer’s Association hosted its annual event, Holiday with a Hero, Saturday, Dec. 16, to spread a little festive cheer with children in the community that deserve it the most.
“It’s quadrupled in size from the first year,” said Susanville Police officer and event organizer Terra Avilla. “I think the fact that we were able to sponsor so many kids was a testament to our community.”
This year, through funds raised at the annual Policeman’s Ball in October and donations from agencies and community groups and residents, the association raised $16,000; enough to sponsor 143 children.
“It’s pretty outstanding,” commented Avilla.
Children had to be nominated for the event, which provided them with $100 to spend at Walmart that morning, a stocking, put together by the Lassen High School Associate Student Body, breakfast, donated by Susanville Supermarket IGA, and fun activities like cookie decorating and face painting.
That morning, after a parade of lights consisting of first responder vehicles, and Santa making a surprise landing in a SEMSA helicopter, each participating child was paired with a local hero and a volunteer to help pick out the items they requested on their shopping list.
From shoes to new clothes, and of course many toys, children overtook the local Walmart as they spent their money how they wanted.
Although planning the event can be chaotic at times, Avilla noted how worth it the event is to all who participate.
“The day of, when you see the little kids, (you realize) this is why we do this,” she said.
In addition to the 143 children benefiting from the event, Avilla noted there were about 160 volunteers donating their time. Local hero first responder agencies who showed up
to shop with the young county residents included the Susanville Police Department, High Desert State Prison, California Correctional Center, the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, United States Forest Service, Cal Fire, Susan River Fire Protection District, Susanville Fire Department, the Bureau of Land Management and SEMSA.
Members of the Lassen Community College baseball team also donated their efforts, with some spending the entire event caroling throughout the aisles, sometimes pausing to sing “Let it Go,” from “Frozen,” with excited children.
With the event quickly expanding — the first year sponsoring 34 children to the 143 now — Avilla said the association plans on continuing the event as long as they can, while helping as many kids as they can.