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 Morton Elementary students eagerly await their turn to receive a gift from the Pueblo PoliceBundled up and bursting with anticipation, the Morton Elementary School first graders huddled on the school playground as School Resource Officer Todd Whittemore arrived to exclamations of approval.

“So what’s everyone doing out here today?,” Officer Whittemore inquired.

“We’re going to get a prize for working hard all year,” came a reply.

A bit of small talk ensued, with the banter soon interrupted by the arrival of several more Pueblo Police Department vehicles and an attention-grabbing white trailer being pulled by a pickup truck.

“So,” Officer Whittemore asked, “what do you think is in that trailer?”

“The prizes. About 150 of them.”

In actuality, the trailer was filled with boxes and boxes of Christmas gifts: Legos, Barbies, games, dolls and figurines, and other holiday treasures.

The fruits of a partnership between Pueblo Police Department School Resource Officers and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program that’s come to be known as Operation Blue Santa.

For the third year, Operation Blue Santa will see every elementary school student in the District receive an age-appropriate gift. An application for the cache of toys, submitted by Freddie Gallegos – the longtime director of the Pueblo Toys for Tots – was met with approval, enabling this heart-warming collaboration to once again enrich the lives of thousands of hard-working youngsters throughout the District.

“We’re back in effect in 2021 and happy to be here,” said Pueblo Police Sergeant Nolan Welsh, who oversees the School Resource Officers assigned to District schools. “Toys for Tots donated all the items, and we are very appreciative of their support. 

“It’s been really amazing, especially over the last year with COVID, and still fighting it this year.”

As the little Bulldogs approached the team of officers distributing the gifts, joy and gratitude – on the part of both benefactor and recipient – was overflowing. Principal Sanchez takes a photo with happy students as they show off their new presents

“The kids are very deserving of this,” said Officer Whittemore, whose School Resource Officer duties include Morton. “It’s great to see these kids get something they didn’t expect. Some aren’t as fortunate as others and this is just one way we can help make sure that Christmas is special for the kids we supervise and look out for.”

Equally as pleased with the unfolding of the Operation was Morton Principal Susan Sanchez.

“This gives our kids a positive perspective on our local police department,” Principal Sanchez said. “And it’s a great reward for our students, who work hard all year long.

“It’s an exciting time for all the kids, especially those who may not get so much for Christmas.”

District 60 Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso praised Operation Blue Santa as an uplifting gesture from the Officers who support and protect District schools throughout the year.

“We are always appreciative of the efforts of our School Resource Officers,” Superintendent Macaluso said. “And for them to once again go the extra mile by hand delivering thousands of gifts to our elementary school students speaks volumes about their giving and caring nature.”

Operation Blue Santa will continue through December 16.