Chandler officer spreads holiday cheer, gives gifts to special family
PHOENIX — Chandler police officer Jose Hernandez pulled up in front of an apartment near McQueen Road and Galveston Street.
Before walking up to the front door, he opened the back of his police SUV that was filled to the brim with presents.
He was there to deliver toys for 7-year-old Daniel, 4-year-old Mackenzie and 2-year-old Zachariah.
“Daniel, I’m going to start with you, buddy,” Hernandez said as he handed Daniel a football. “But that’s not it.”
He also handed Daniel an air hockey table. Mackenzie got a bike and large pink unicorn. Zachariah got dolls from the movie “Frozen.”
The toys came from the 911 Police Toy Drive, a local non-profit that collects toys for police officers to give to families.
Officer Hernandez said he has a special connection to this family.
“The mom in this family was a child back when I used to deliver [toys] to her and her brothers and sisters,” he said.
Davida Percy said Hernandez has made a big impact in her life ever since she was little.
She added she wasn’t going to be able to afford presents for her children this year, but that has changed.
“They went from no Christmas presents to now having presents under the Christmas tree so that’s just the best thing, like, seeing my kids light up with smiles,” Percy said.
Hernandez has been bringing smiles to families like Percy’s for about 20 years.
“When you have a passion for this job, it’s to help people,” he said. “It’s not how many people you take to jail, or how many people you write tickets to. It’s [about] helping the public. That’s why we’re here.”
W. Steven Martin, president and founder of the 911 Police Toy Drive, said this is the 34th year his nonprofit has been giving toys to police officers. Between 85,000 and 140,000 toys are collected and given away each year.
Police officers from all across the state participate. They identify up to two families they want to give presents to, fill out a form listing the toys the kids would like to get, and they pick out the toys at a warehouse.
Dozens of police officers were set to pick out the toys on Friday.
“These toys come from a police officer who wants to make a difference,” Martin said.