Eagle County Sheriff: For some families, the holidays are not a time of celebration (column) | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Sheriff: For some families, the holidays are not a time of celebration (column)

James van Beek
Valley Voices

Eagle County becomes magical during the holidays, from the villages in Vail to the incredible displays across ranches downvalley … the snow, the skiing, the lights, the music, the movies (yes, "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie), the parties, the shopping — it can truly be the happiest time of year. Whether celebrated as a sacred religious occasion or a secular cultural holiday, the focus is on family, friends, good food and community celebrations.

Have you ever looked around and the sheer enormity of holiday events had the opposite effect? Has the stress of shopping, being around family that often made you wonder if you were adopted, preparing meals when exhausted, even though you preferred a pizza and the sound of one more Christmas song brought on thoughts of "The Shinning" rather than Rudolph?

While we all have moments of being overwhelmed, for some it runs much deeper. The holidays are a time when our focus is on showing our appreciation of those around us, getting together with people whom we may think of often but may not have an opportunity to visit and, of course, a celebration of the innocence of children, beginning with the one in a manger.

However, with all of this focus on "It's a Wonderful Life," for some, this attention is on all that they may feel they don't have. Walking through Vail and nearby communities, we look like something out of Central Casting, yet for some, things may be far from ideal:

Family issues, including recent losses; health concerns which may have cost them every bit of savings they've earned; business and other financial setbacks, causing neighbors to struggle for food behind closed doors, too embarrassed to ask for help, some even worried about keeping heat in their homes; many have children.

For these families, the holidays are not a time of celebration. What do they say to the child who believes that Santa brings presents to all good children? Come Christmas morning, when the tree is bare, are they left to believe that they are simply not good enough? While friends excitedly open presents, parents with broken hearts tell them that there may not even be enough for dinner that night.

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In fact, the huge focus on happiness and family may cause some to delve into a feeling of hopelessness, which is why this season is one of the highest for depression and suicide. Please be mindful that there are those within our community who are struggling just to keep it together. Let's make a conscious effort to include them in our festivities. A small gesture could truly save a life.

While some areas are too complex for the Sheriff's Office to remedy, there is one area that we've got covered: Shop with a Cop.

Holiday magic arrives at Eagle County two days this week: In Eagle, on Thursday, Dec. 6, with the help of the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Eagle Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Greater Eagle and Gypsum fire protection districts and sponsored by 4 Eagle Ranch, Walmart and ECO Transit, as well as numerous donations from businesses and individuals, we will serve 45 children in need, from across the valley, selected by schools and other community organizations.

We begin at Walmart, where each child gets to shop with a cop for family presents and also bring home a holiday food basket of family favorites. Afterward, we head to 4 Eagle Ranch to share a meal, chat with Santa and excitedly wrap presents. By the end of the evening, kids are singing, laughing and barely able to contain the excitement of being the ones to create a special Christmas for their family.

To say that we get more out of this event than we give is a vast understatement. We are committed to creating precious childhood memories that are filled with the love of an entire community.

Vail and Avon police departments, along with other upvalley first responders and community members, will be doing their Shop with a Cop event on Monday, Dec. 10. We are all so grateful to serve.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.