Hundreds of families are ready for Christmas thanks to the Grand Prairie Police Department.
This year is extra special for the detective in charge of the program as he prepares to retire after more than two decades on the force.
For most of the families, there wouldn't be any presents to open up on Christmas if it wasn't for the Santa Cop program. Some of the recipients were victims of Hurricane Harvey who ended up in Grand Prairie with nothing.
Standing in the lobby of the Ruthe Jackson Center Ballroom is Ashley Hicks and her three kids. The energetic family was eager to see what was waiting for them behind closed doors.
“Just to know that there's people out there who are willing to help,” Hicks said.
Her family was just one of 420 Grand Prairie families in need who are grateful for Christmas gifts from the community. Most of the 1,200 kids are selected through the public school district.
Gaby Fogle is raising four girls on her own. This is the second year she’s received help.
“I’m happy. I’m glad,” she said. “They’re going to have a good Christmas because being a single mom — it’s crazy.”
In the thick of the organized chaos is the man who’s been in charge of the event for the past 21 years: Detective Heath Wester.
“We had a family last year who was basically homeless, had nowhere to go, stayed with us basically through the entire night,” he recalled. “You never know what’s going to happen this year. We're here to help.”
Wester is retiring this year. But the smiles he's gotten over the years, with the help of countless volunteers, will no doubt last him a lifetime.
“It’s bittersweet,” he admitted. “I’m a little sad. This had been a part of my life for a very long time.”
The detective is moving his family back to Greyson County, which is home. He's handing over the reins to another detective who will no doubt keep the tradition going for years to come.