The way Sergeant Manuel Aguayo tells it, the history of the University Police Department Toy Drive is like many famous holiday stories.
The tale goes something like this: Back in 1992 (or was it ’93?), Sergeant Amado Ramirez brought an idea to then-Chief Ric Abeyta. With the holidays approaching, Ramirez wanted to do something for the community that he served—a community that he knew struggled to make ends meet, let alone put presents under the tree.
“This will be my 20th year with the program and every year it’s emotional,” says Aguayo, ’97 Justice Studies, who first wrapped gifts as a volunteer student cadet in 1994. “These families need just a little bit of help to make Christmas magical.”
That help has grown over two decades from delivering food boxes to a handful of families to bringing personalized presents to a projected 550 children from 200 low-income families this year. A huge number of volunteers make it possible, from donations to wrapping presents to joining the convoy of cruisers carrying Santa—an officer in blue wearing red for the day—as he knocks on each door and delivers each gift by name.
These families need just a little bit of help to make Christmas magical.”
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” says Aguayo. “A few years ago we had two sisters volunteer, students who had been recipients of the toys as children. It was amazing to see how it had touched them; they even remembered the names of the officers who came to their door. This has really helped us build a bridge with the community.”
This year Santa will make his rounds on December 13. As always, donations are appreciated. “When you see the kids’ eyes light up and tears of joy from the parents—words can’t explain it,” says Aguayo. “They are so grateful.”