Officers and volunteers also brought toys and presents to families impacted by this year’s serial killings.
STOCKTON, Calif. — For a 23rd year Saturday, the sounds and sights of police sirens brought smiles to some Stockton neighborhoods as police officers, volunteers and Santa delivered toys and gifts to nearly 20 families touched by violent crime.
The Stockton Police Department’s 23rd Annual Officer Matt Smith Christmas Toy Project started amid the fog Saturday morning as dozens of volunteers gathered at Arroyo’s Café, loading up more than 1,000 toys and dividing into groups to parade through neighborhoods in an effort to spread holiday cheer.
“It’s very moving. It’s our 23rd year doing this and it’s just incredible, you know,” Police Chief Stan McFadden said. “These are families that have fallen victim to violence and we’re here to bring some some holiday cheer and some holiday joy. It’s just great to be a part of.”
The Saturday event was a first for McFadden, who took helm of the police department in June.
Over the course of several months, community members and businesses donated the gifts and bikes that were given out Saturday morning.
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“It’s refreshing and energizing,” McFadden said of seeing smiles on kids’ faces. “The youth aren’t only our future, they’re now. And you know, we need to start the engagement right now.”
Stockton resident Marina Herrera and her stepson were awake, waiting outside of their home when the parade of police cars moved through.
“It’s just amazing, I’m so grateful and thankful for everybody in this community,” Herrera said moments after her stepson went for a ride on his brand new bike. “He took off on that bike, surprised us all.”
Surprise was also the emotion felt by dozens more families who heard the unexpected sirens and Christmas music in their neighborhoods early Saturday morning.
Whiles volunteers and officers focused on giving gifts to kids impacted by violent crime, including families affected by 2022’s serial killings and the fatal stabbing of a teen on a high school campus in April, other families along the giveaway’s route were also given presents.
“It’s amazing to see him happy,” Herrera said. “I’m so proud to be a Stocktonian right now.”
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