Tustin PD and Santa Claus deliver gifts to kids in hospital

By Lou Ponsi

With Santa Claus leading the charge, uniformed personnel from the Tustin Police Department pulled wagons filled with gifts through the festively decorated hallways and into patients’ rooms at the Foothill Regional Medical Center in Tustin.

Tustin PD Deputy Chief Paul Garaven, right, along with other members of Tustin PD, join Santa Claus in delivering gifts and Christmas cheer to children at the Foothill Regional Medical Center on Dec.6. Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Santa and his Tustin PD helpers made their annual holiday visit to the center on Dec. 6, giving gifts to 30 brain-injured children and young adults.

Some of the patients had suffered a traumatic brain injury stemming from an accident and others were born with a brain disorder.

All need full-time medical care.

Tustin Police Service Officers Megan Evans, left, and Adriana Tokar made an annual visit to Foothill Regional Medical Center to deliver Christmas gifts. Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s a very positive feeling but at the same time, when you see these kids, it’s sad,” said Police Services Officer Marilyn Packer, who helps organize the event. “We hope we can bring them a little bit of happiness. We’ve been doing this for many years and hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to do this.”

The gifts, which include clothing, plush animals, tactile toys, electronics, Christmas lights, and toiletries, are donated by police department and city employees.

Donations are made based on a wish list with the child’s name, age, and needs.

Tustin PD Service Officer Megan Evans interacts with a child at the Foothill Regional Medical Center. Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

“The employees of the City of Tustin have big hearts and a lot of them specifically choose the hospital kids,” police services officer Adriana Tokar said.

Medical center CEO Araceli Lonergan said the staff appreciates the annual visit as much as the patients.

“These kids become (our) family,” Lonergan said. “It’s nice that this is being done by the police department because they are part of the community and we want to be part of their community too.”

Tustin Police Lt. Manny Arzate pushes a cart filled with gifts for children at the Foothill Regional Medical Center. Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Members of the Tustin Police Department and the staff at the Foothill Regional Medical Center pose for a photo after Tustin PD delivered gifts to children at the center. Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Santa Claus brings a bag filled with Christmas gifts into a patient’s room at the Foothill Regional Medical Center. Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC