Deputies / 100 KidS
PLAY HOST TO CHILDREN'S HOLIDAY PARTY
sure can throw one heckuva party with 150 pizzas, 70 cases of soda and
more than $10,000 worth of presents.
that’s exactly what Sheriff’s deputies just did, in an annual
tradition that brought smiles and holiday cheer to more than 200
children from across the county. Now in its 19th year, the centerpiece
of the Sheriff’s Office’s 100 Deputies/100
Kids charity program is a massive holiday celebration for disadvantaged
children. This year’s festivities took place on Dec. 13 in DeLand and
included everything from food, fun and holiday gifts to pony rides and a
visit from Santa Claus.
committee spends much of the year planning the event and
raising money through private donations to fund the party.
Using donated money, the group went on a Wal-Mart shopping
spree and filled baskets to the brim with about $10,400
worth of gifts for the children. At the end of the shopping
spree, Wal-Mart offset part of the expenses by presenting the 100
Deputies/100 Kids Committee with a $4,500 donation.
backbone of the program is a large group of off-duty deputies who
volunteer their time to serve as hosts for the evening. This year,
approximately 94 deputies participated. Families facing hardships are
nominated by deputies, school crossing guards and guidance counselors to
attend the party. Deputies serve as official hosts and escorts for the
evening, picking up their families in their patrol cars for the ride to
the Volusia County Agricultural Center. The program was first launched
in 1989 and has been
enthusiastically carried on since Sheriff Ben Johnson took office in
2001. For the Sheriff’s Office, it’s an opportunity to bond with
children and give back to the community.
many of the children, the 100 Deputies/100 Kids party is their only
holiday,” said Sheriff Johnson. “The joy on their faces just warms
your heart. This is our way to strengthen bonds and bring joy to young
the party officially kicked off at 7 p.m., the deputies and their
families began arriving much earlier so the kids could mingle and take
turns on the pony ride. Once the party was in full swing, volunteers
shuffled about the room with incredible efficiency, serving up a dinner
full of kid favorites -- pizza, chips and holiday treats. With full
bellies and rising excitement, the kids prepared for one of the
highlights of the evening -- a visit from Santa. Afterwards, it was time
to hand out the presents. Then the evening ended after about 2½ hours
with a parade of blue lights and sirens as the families and deputy
escorts depart en-masse.
Captain Marty Hatchett, this has been a holiday tradition for 18 years.
“It’s always a fun evening for the
deputies,” said Hatchett, who hosted a mother from Deltona along with
her two sons, ages 6 and 8. “This let’s the kids get to know us in a
Lucas didn’t hesitate when asked about the highlight of the evening.
“Santa’s gonna come and I’m going to get presents.”
8-year-old brother Cody of “Captain Marty,” as Hatchett is known to
the kids: “He’s a nice man.”
party over and decorations taken down, the children and families return
home and the deputies return to their
enforcement duties. But the kinship doesn’t end there. Many of the
deputies continue to befriend their families long after the party ends,
dropping in on them from time to time throughout the year to maintain
the bonds and check on their welfare. Meanwhile, at the 100 Deputies/100
Kids party, it’s hard to tell who gets more out of the annual holiday
extravaganza -- the children or the deputies.
seeing the joy on the little ones’ faces makes it all
worthwhile,” said Lieutenant Cliff Williams, who hosted a family with
two boys, ages 9 and 14. “Most of the time, the contact we have with
the public is negative. This is a positive. Tonight, everybody wins."
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