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Santa makes his rounds in Ripon with help of police & firefighters
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Santa steps out of the cab of the Ripon Police armored SWAT vehicle as he is about to lead members of the police and fire departments through town delivering gifts to children provided by the Ripon Police Department. Standing next to Santa is Officer Mike Perry who organized the program. Patrolman Steve Meeces wife Kristen and daughter Haly, 11, are seen in the left foreground. - photo by GLENN KAHL

RIPON - A Ripon Police car, an armored SWAT unit and a fire engine with lights flashing startled several neighborhoods Thursday night bringing Santa with them for a series of special deliveries to good little boys and girls.

Ripon canine officer Mike Perry was concerned that officers hadn’t focused on many of the children in Ripon who might not have much of a Christmas over the last five years.  Perry enlisted the help of others - including the Ripon Fire Department - to focus on four families with 14 children aged 1 to 17.  Officers and firefighters took numerous wrapped packages, along with a bicycle and a tricycle that were given to wide-eyed children in the dark of night.

The four vehicles caravanned over the Second Street overpass of Highway 99 with a SWAT officer sitting in the open back door of the armored vehicle followed by the fire truck and volunteers’ VIPs van with its amber lights flashing.  They drove up to the 600 block of Nancy Drive initiating their emergency lights and blowing the horn on the fire truck to alert the occupants.

Family members came out the front door one-by-one as the youngsters spotted Santa getting out of the red and white rescue unit waving at them.  Neighbors across the street were straining to see what all the fuss was about.

Toni Mayers held her 6-year-old daughter Skylar before the little girl got down and ran up to hug Santa.  A 7-year-old brother was loaded down with presents as his sister asked for her mom to lift her up to the window of the engine so she could shake Santa’s hand before he left. 

Next the four emergency vehicles caravanned to the 200 block of East Third Street where they were delivering presents, including a bicycle and a tricycle, to a family of six children.  Three youngsters, stair-stepped in height, barely opened the front door and peered out of their rear apartment.  They continued to peek as Santa made his way toward them from the big, red fire engine with its flashing red lights.

The children and their mom hesitatingly walked out the door to the waiting police officers, firefighters and volunteers who had gifts in hand.

As one child held onto the handlebars of his new bicycle, Santa asked that all important question, “What do you do when you ride a bike.”  The boy quickly responded, “Wear a helmet!”

Not only were the children and their parents were thrilled by the special evening, but so were the officers, firefighters and Volunteers in Police Service – all being choked up to some degree by the responses they were getting.

The Winters Glen Apartments on Roberts Avenue and West Main Street was next on the schedule as the emergency vehicles,  again with red lights flashing,  threaded their way through the complex to find 7-year-old Jake, a first grader at Weston Elementary School.

A knock at his apartment door brought Jake wide-eyed and mouth opened in awe, running to the fire truck and Santa .

Other children ran out of their apartments hearing Santa and his helpers were outside and waiting for them.  Santa had stuffed animals that he handed out to the youngsters as they gathered around.  Parents followed with cell phone cameras in hand to record the event.

After handing out the stuffed animals to the small crowd of children from the apartments, Santa mused as he looked toward the second story roofs and their tiny chimneys saying, “Hmm, those chimneys look awfully small.”

As Santa was about to climb back into the cab of the fire truck, young Jake stood on his tip toes, looked up at the jolly giant above him and asked, “Santa, give me a high five.”

Next was in the 1100 block of Highland Avenue with the caravan parking across the street from their final stop.  Children and parents guardedly walked out of their front door to meet Santa and his helpers on their front lawn.

One mother, early in the night, said that they and so many others had lost so much in the bad economy that she just couldn’t believe her children were getting the many gifts.  She recognized it was thanks to the generosity of the police department, with the community and fire department supporting the effort.

In addition to Perry, other SWAT officers were Erik Boger and Alex Burgos.  Reserve firefighters were Chad Chiek and Bryon Woods.  The VIP members participating were Bea Azevedo, Connie Goddard and Gordon Nickison.  And Santa, he looked like he might be somehow related to Ripon Officer Stephen Meece.