Austin police are making sure children pulled from crisis situations will not go without this Christmas.
APD officers unloaded a trailer full of bikes in the parking lot of the Helping Hand Home for children Monday. As fun as some of the officers had trying out the gifts, one can only imagine the faces of the children who will receive them on Christmas morning.
"They'll be amazed when they see all the bikes together,” said APD Commander Todd Gage.
Commander Todd Gage is one of 21 officers who serve as a Blue Guardian. Guardians meet weekly with one of the 41 children at the home. The kids, ages four to 13, have all endured physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or abandonment.
"This allows the officer now to have the opportunity to feel like they're doing something for the kid. Before we felt our hands were tied and really didn't have a lot of say in what happens to the child after we took the bad guy away. This allows us the ability to have an influence on a child throughout the process after they've suffered something like that and to be able to be a part of this progress in this process for them is unique and special for us,” said Gage.
Retired Assistant Chief Jessica Robledo started the program a couple of years ago. She, like the children, had a difficult upbringing.
"I felt something in my heart. I knew I could relate to the children who are housed here,” said Robledo.
"You know, these kids are without their families. They live here. They're not here for a weekend or a month. They're here for a year or two helping to deal with the complex trauma they suffer from,” said Helping Hand Home for Children Executive Director Ted Keyser.
The children are hesitant to accept the officers at first as they are viewed as someone who took them away from their parents. Once trust is established, a beautiful relationship evolves.
"To see what a community can be like. To see what a family could be like. To see what love could be like,” said Chief Brian Manley. "It's so special that at this time of the year with the holidays upon us that we're able to do today and let these kids feel as special as they should feel. Feel that they're valued and do understand that people do care and love them."
Thanks to the "blue" the kids will experience a Christmas that will be anything but.
This is a part of the Blue Santa program. This year APD will provide gifts for four-thousand families and 20-thousand children.