By: Lolita Harper
Kenny Lutz, a lieutenant at West Valley Detention Center, looks forward to the holiday season and the ample opportunity for charitable giving during this time.
Each year, Lutz — along with several of his coworkers — would faithfully give his time to a charity that involved collecting toys for children. This year, when that charity no longer welcomed help from law enforcement, Lutz became the catalyst for a homegrown program to benefit children at San Antonio Hospital in Upland.
Lutz, together with Sgt. Gary Esmond, Karen Schreiner and a team of purposeful deputies, created the San Antonio Santas program that not only delivered toys to the children at San Antonio Hospital but created a partnership that will provide a continuing impact.
The deputies from West Valley Detention Center garnered several generous donations, including $1,000 from the SEBA Everyday Heroes campaign. With the various donations received they purchased furniture, play sets, toys, train tables, televisions, video games, movies, books and toys for the children’s lounge area at San Antonio Hospital.
“I didn’t do anything other than put the thought in motion,” a humble Lutz said. “I gave the project to Gary [Esmond] and he ran with it.”
Esmond worked closely with Dep. Jay Estrada, who reached out to Schreiner for ideas on what organization to benefit. Schreiner’s husband had just had open heart surgery at San Antonio Hospital, so she suggested it.
“We knew we wanted to keep it local,” Schreiner said. “The bigger hospitals tend to receive most of the donations. We contacted San Antonio and they were very positive and excited.”
Their efforts went beyond simply collecting and donating money. They collaborated with deputies from the Rancho Cucamonga Station and arranged for community members to donate toys by stuffing a transportation bus with gifts. What wasn’t donated was purchased by team members, who painstakingly combed through aisles to pick the best movies and games. They stayed late at the hospital the night before putting together the furniture and setting up the play areas for the big reveal.
The Sheriff’s San Antonio Santas arranged for the toys to be delivered on a large San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department bus. Santa Claus (Dep. Brian Berg) and several deputies from West Valley Detention Center and the Rancho Cucamonga Station brought boxes of hundreds of toys and stockings to be delivered to children throughout the hospital.
The generous deputies also handed out toys to any children they saw in waiting rooms and lobbies as they made their rounds through the hospital.
One little girl was so excited by her toy she started jumping up and down. Her family member pulled Schreiner aside and told her – with tears in her eyes – how crucial that moment of joy was going to be for the little girl. They were there to see the girl’s mother who had just passed away and the little girl did not know it yet.
“The most touching part of our day was that precious little girl who was going to receive the most heartbreaking news,” Schreiner said.
The SEBA Everyday Heroes Campaign is designed to highlight the great work of our members. SEBA is proud to support our members and their philanthropic efforts.
THANK YOU TO OUR EVERYDAY HEROES: