HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – On Christmas morning, it’s become an annual tradition for the Holyoke Police Department to help deliver toys with Santa to children in need.
8-year-old John Michael Bradford moved into a shelter in Holyoke after a fire destroyed his family’s home this past summer. So, getting a present from Santa was a feeling like no other.
Bradford told 22News, “It was like getting an excited feeling that you never had in your life.”
Little John was one among many children who woke up to sirens and received presents from the Holyoke Police Department Christmas morning.
Jazmin Perez told 22News, “I definitely wasn’t expecting this when I heard the sirens in my house. I thought it was something bad, so we came and checked it out and saw a whole line of kids, and everyone is so excited, and my daughters excited, and it’s really good to get some toys that were unexpected at Christmas.”
For 30 years, members of the Holyoke Police Department’s Narcotics Unit have passed out toys along with Santa, making deliveries in high-crime and low-income areas of the city.
Detective Anthony Brach told 22News, “They don’t see us as the bad police officers coming into the neighborhoods. They see us as human beings giving back to them.”
And it helps with future interactions. All of the gifts given out are donated by members of the community. For many kids, these are the only gifts that they’re receiving for Christmas. For others, they were just excited to see Santa.
Retired Narcotics Detective Dennis Egan has been wearing the red suit since the beginning, 30 years ago.
Egan’s partner, John DiNapoli, was killed in the line of duty.
Egan told 22News, “You know, this is where John got shot. That little knoll there signifies where he was killed, and that happened two days before Christmas, and we all decided at that point we had to do that, because John would want us to do that.”
Egan said this was his last toy run, and it’s time to pass on the red suit. “It’s been good, and I got to thank the police department for letting me continue to do this. I enjoy it too, but I’m getting old and it’s time to pass it on.”
Holyoke Police said that they will be deciding who takes the red suit and beard as the toy run will continue next year.