Chicago Police Department officers honored their fallen and injured comrades while spreading cheer to their families this holiday season through Operation Santa. The two-day event was organized by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to support the families of fallen law enforcement officers or those who are catastrophically injured on the job. Over the course of a December weekend, CPD officers escorted Santa, Mrs. Claus and Frosty the Snowman in police SUVs to the homes of families of fallen heroes to drop off presents and bring Christmas cheer.
The caravan stops included the home of fallen CPD officer Nathaniel Taylor, who was shot and killed while serving a search warrant on the South Side of Chicago in 2008.
The caravan then visited the home of Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was fatally shot during the Mercy Hospital mass shooting in 2018. Santa gave a brand-new pink bike to Jimenez’s daughter, who rode it along the sidewalk to cheering and clapping.
Next, Santa and his police escort visited 6-year-old Sophia Marmolejo, daughter of the late CPD Officer Eduardo Marmolejo.
“Showing up is a big deal, and for me, it’s important, and it reminds me that they’re never going to forget,” Marmolejo’s widow, Maria, told Fox 32 Chicago.
Maria said she told her daughter that Santa made an extra stop this year because her dad is a hero and the city is thinking about her.
Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., who was gravely wounded last year in the shooting that took the life of his partner Ella French, also received a special visit from Santa Claus.
“It’s just amazing that Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, along with so many others, bring so much joy to officers’ families that lost so much,” Yanez said in an interview with NBC 5 Chicago.
CPD officers gave the Yanez family gifts to brighten their holiday season.
“It’s just amazing, it melts my heart that I get the honor and the privilege to still be his dad,” the officer said of his son Carlos Giovanni Yanez III.
Yanez, who was shot four times and lost an eye, struggles every day physically and mentally, but said acts like this give him strength to continue battling.
“I get my strength from all the officers that are working and my family of course and that little guy right there,” Yanez said.
In total, 13 families were visited for this year’s Operation Santa.