Tuesday, December 22, 2015 12:07 PM

Police non-profit helps bring Christmas to special needs children

Chief Mike Cantaloupe temporarily traded in his badge last week for a Santa Clause hat as he hand delivered toys to the children at Creative Learning School in Cocoa last Friday. It was part of an ongoing effort by the department’s Cocoa Community First non-profit to bring smiles to as many children as possible during the Christmas holiday season. The students who attend Creative Learning range in age from 5-22 years old and all have special needs. Each student received one or more gifts from “Santa Cantaloupe” and enjoyed a day of play, music and celebration. “The gifts the children are receiving are a big deal because for many of them it’s the only gift they will receive during the holiday,” said Katherine Mendoza of the Creative Learning School. “The kids were so excited and had been looking forward to it for a long time.”

The toys were donated by Cocoa Community First Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit which is used to fund the youth outreach programs of the Cocoa Police Department including the annual Shop with a Cop, Christmas Toy Drive, Police Athletic League programs and summer programs. “This really is my favorite part about Christmas,” Chief Cantaloupe said. “You just can’t put a price on seeing the smiles on the faces of these children. That is what it’s all about.”

Last week families of about 300 children picked up toys for their Christmas celebration which included bikes, games, clothes and other items which the children put on a wish list. The toys were donated by the community and some purchased through the non-profit charity. Another 20 children were treated to a shopping spree earlier this month courtesy of Wal-Mart for the annual Shop with a Cop event.