Orange County Sheriff’s deputies play Santa at Adopt-a-Family visits

By Shawn Price

“Wow!” Mason shouts as he tears through wrapping to reveal gift after gift.

Toys, clothes, and Christmas wrapping are sprawled across the living room floor as a group of Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies and volunteers watch with smiles as big as young Mason’s and his older siblings, Kayley and Jordan. Their mom, recently widowed, can’t stop smiling either.

Two-year-old Mason Overstreet bends down to open a gift with OC Sheriff Dep. Jarlin Debolt.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

On a chilly December 21 evening, the group arrived at the children’s home like uniformed Santas, offering a Christmas that might otherwise not be. OCSD’s annual Adopt-a-Family chooses families in need from the neighborhoods that deputies cover to help make the season bright.

When the families are chosen, the parents are notified and asked to give a Christmas list to deputies. A department will “adopt” the family, pulling together to provide the gifts on the list and deliver them in person.

Ashley Overstreet answers the door with 2-year-old Mason to OCSD Deputy E. Lucero, left, as OCSD volunteers bring Christmas gifts.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Basically, this is a way to give back to the community,” School Resource Officer Michael Sakamoto said. “We’re people too, and they get to see that.”

On the way to a second family’s home, Deputy Eric Ota says he’s surprised by his first Adopt-a-Family experience.

“I didn’t know what to think, but the kids were super excited and that’s great,” Ota said. “I’m definitely glad I decided to do this.”

The Overstreet family, which includes Ashley, Mason, 2, James, 11, Jordan, 12, and Kaylie Polizzi, 8, gather with OCSD volunteers who brought Christmas gifts as part of the Adopt-a-Family program.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A single mom and her five kids stand on the patio a few minutes later. Once the youngest child, Luna, opens her present, she breaks into a huge smile and hugs her new doll.

The mom hugs the deputies as they leave.

“It plays a huge part in shaping how they think about the world,” Sakamoto said. “A stranger just gave them a gift. They might not remember me, but they remember the badge and that’s important. This is all about giving.”

OCSD Deputy E. Lucero, right, hands a gift to 2-year-old Mason as OCSD volunteers bring Christmas gifts to families in need. Behind them are OCSD Deputy Eric Ota, left, Ashley Overstreet and Jordan Overstreet, 12.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Two-year-old Mason Overstreet, his mother, Ashley, and brother, Jordan, 12, open gifts with OCSD Deputy E. Lucero, left.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCD Deputy Eric Ota hands Christmas gifts to the Rodriguez family in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OC Sheriff Deputies Michael Sakamoto and E. Lucero hand out gifts to the Rodriguez family as OCSD volunteers bring Christmas gifts to families in need.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Rodriguez family gathers with OCSD volunteers at their home with Christmas gifts given to the Rodriguez family.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC