Nearby, Kiera’s 3-year-old brother Deason Washington selected a toy robot with the help of officer Don Rutledge while wearing a Spiderman mask.
The children were two of 30 paired up with 30 police officers as part of the Blue Santa Program.
Detective Brown said the children have a ball at the event and it feels nice to be able to see them smile.
“A lot us of have worked cases with these kids, so it’s nice to do something nice for them,” she said.
All of the children’s families are receiving assistance from the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County and were selected to pick out their own gifts with the help of uniformed officers acting as “Blue Santas.”
Margaret McBride, multidisciplinary team coordinator for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County, said the center focuses on assisting the families and victims of sexual and extreme physical assault. She said their services include counseling, support groups and assisting the children in their court testimonies.
In addition to alleged abuse, families also may be suffering through financial strain when a loved one is placed into custody, Ms. McBride said. She said children were selected for the program based on financial need and in some cases the need for positive male role model interaction.
“Sometimes kids (have) fear of police, and this is one way to kind of take out that wall, and let them know that police officers are their friends and we are here to help them,” Swindle said. “What better way than to take them Christmas shopping and buy them some nice gifts for Christmas?”
The project was funded by the East Texas Regional Fraternal Order of Police, which supports officers and community projects, and each child was given $100 to spend however they chose.
Sgt. Adam Tarrant, past president of the fraternal order, said the children are generally very cautious on the items they choose.
“They don’t just go in there and pick up the first thing because a lot of these kids never had $100 to go out and spend,” he said. “They actually go and look for stuff on sale, they put stuff back, get other items — it’s really neat.”
Amber Washington, mother of Kiera and Deason, said her children understand police are their friends.
“Deason, every time he sees a police officer he says, ‘a cop momma, a cop, a cop.’” she said. “He (gets) super excited.”
“I lost my job like three weeks ago,” she said holding back tears. “They closed down, and I was concerned about Christmas … When they called me and told me about this blue Christmas, I started bawling. It was like a blessing.”
To add to the miracle, Ms. Washington said, Detective Brown was right beside her helping select gifts while laughing and smiling with the children.
“She has been with us every step of the way, and my kids absolutely adore her,” Ms. Washington said. “Kiera, she doesn’t have too much to do with anybody, (so) for her to go off with detective Brown, she really has to have trust with her.”