Operation Santa Is Real



December 29, 2013

The Hawthorne Police Department has recently partnered with the National Hockey League “NHL” Players Association to form an ice hockey team in which children from low income/urban families can learn to play ice hockey without having to worry about the high costs associated with the sport due to necessary equipment, the cost of ice rental time and much needed coaching. The team is comprised of 24 children, ages 4-7 and is coached by Hawthorne Police Officers and volunteers from the Hockey Community. No child is turned away!

The Hawthorne Force Ice Hockey players and parents are taught and abide by a code of honesty, integrity and positive reinforcement both on and off the ice. These same principles are what Hawthorne Police Officers exemplify on a daily basis and serve as a role model for the children. The team also helps build "community" as it has brought children and parents from different ethnic and geographic backgrounds together on one team. In fact, several children of Hawthorne Police employees play on the team (they pay $200.00 every 10 weeks to help offset costs).

It was brought to our attention by select team parents this holiday season that 2 children on the team had families who were in dire financial situations and might not be able to provide presents for their children this Christmas. Operation "Santa is Real" was born as a result of that fact. Using Facebook, the Hawthorne Police Department posted what the specific needs and desires of each child, a boy and a girl each 6 years old, where. The desires were simple with items such as a blanket with ponies and a pair of shoes. The resulting donations from the Hawthorne community was overwhelming and fulfilled the wishes of each child, and then some.

It was decided to make Christmas special for the children and have them meet "Santa Claus" at the ice rink where the team practices. A small group of filmmakers, Hawthorne Police Department employees and volunteers worked to create a magical experience for the children culminating in tracking down Santa Clause, retired Los Angeles King, Vic Venasky.  The children had the opportunity to ice skate with Santa Claus and in turn learn that he is indeed real and wanted to make Christmas special for them because they were on the "nice list" and had worked very hard learning to skate and play ice hockey.

The event was filmed and edited by Film-maker James West who is also filming a documentary about the Hawthorne Force program itself. The video was shot on Christmas Eve, then edited and posted online on Christmas day.  A link to the video has been “tweeted” out by Joel Stein of Time magazine, the NHLPA and numerous others who want to spread some Christmas joy and see the story of a little boy and little girl who so deserved a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

The Hawthorne Force hockey team will continue to practice and play every week until they are no longer able to afford the $300 per week fee for “ice rental” time. The parents and police officers have raised enough money to pay for 7 more weeks of play as of today. They are still looking for a full time sponsor to help keep the kid playing and to be a part of this special program.

The point of contact for the Hawthorne Force is Sergeant Chris Cognac who is assigned to the Hawthorne Police Department Community Affairs Unit.  He can be reached directly at 310-349-2822 (Desk), 310-629-7611 (Cell), or (Email).

Testimonial from a Parent:

We had an awesome time last night but I also got very emotional during the interview with the NHLPA after witnessing the greatest event that my son is blessed to have been a part of.  I really couldn't find the words to show our appreciation we have for this chance of a lifetime.  I started to cry and simply told him how grateful we were.   It was kind of embarrassing but I just hope they see how honored and grateful we are for this opportunity.  

Thank you again and million times more for bringing this to our community.  I owe you my life, I owe this great city of Hawthorne my life,  I’ve been in Hawthorne all my life and I’ve never felt so proud and honored to be in this community since I got a chance to meet you and the rest of the HPD and be a part of all this.

Thank you for putting Hawthorne on the map.  Thank you for making my son the happiest kid in the world.  Thank you for being the man that you are and being a part of this community.   You and the rest of the guys have created and achieved something so special that no one will ever forget. 

Contact:  Lieutenant Scott Swain

Detective Bureau Commander / Public Information Officer

(310) 349-2835