Van Beek: Santa wears many hats | VailDaily.com

Van Beek: Santa wears many hats

Ski mountains opened early this year, and the holiday season is upon us.  While this is a season for all to enjoy, it has special meaning for our children. 

This community transforms into a winter wonderland during the holidays … like one giant snow globe! We are a global destination for a reason. People arrive with an expectation of entering a holiday fantasyland and many of us within the community gladly work hard to provide it. 

Meanwhile, many who live here may also find themselves working several jobs, with some struggling just to keep it together. Life in a snow globe, while beautiful, isn’t always easy. The cost of living is always a challenge, but we are also vulnerable to the same things that other communities face. Family issues, financial losses, health concerns, loss of loved ones, and other unforeseen circumstances, may have claimed every bit of savings earned, 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.

Whether celebrated as a sacred religious occasion or a secular cultural holiday, the focus is on family, friends, good food, community celebrations.  It is a time of expectations, but unlike a Hallmark movie, reality does not always live up to our expectations and it often comes with a price tag — fiscal and otherwise. 

As adults, we understand the challenges of the season and its economic impact. Many treat it as just another busy time of year, but everywhere you turn, is a reminder of all the things we strive for but may fall short of achieving. 

Children expect a big guy, in a red suit, with tons of presents. If he doesn’t show up, it must mean that they were bad or somehow unworthy or even unloved. Not a feeling any child should experience, especially during the holidays. 

While friends excitedly open presents, they are told, by parents with broken hearts, that there may not even be enough for dinner that night, much less presents. How could anyone stand by and do nothing? 

This is a holiday where it takes so little to make a huge difference in the life of a young child; reminding them that they truly are special and helping create a precious memory of a Christmas filled with the love of an entire community. While some areas are too complex for the Sheriff’s Office and other agencies to remedy, getting toys to little ones is something we’ve got covered.  

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office joins local police departments, first responder units, and charitable organizations, in sharing our gratitude for all that we are so fortunate to have. Shop with a Cop is one way we show our appreciation. This year’s dates for Shop with a Cop events are Dec. 4 (Eagle County Sheriff’s Office) and Dec. 11 (Vail and Avon police departments).

There are so many other incredible charity opportunities. The Salvation Army has a toy drive and a food bank. Volunteers please sign up at http://www.SalvationArmyVail.org. United Way and Vail Valley Partnership raise funds for local charitable agencies like the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, and the Masons

Money can also be donated for food at the Eagle River Valley Food Bank in Gypsum, which is a Community Market in partnership with the Eagle Valley Community Foundation, Food Bank of the Rockies, Eagle County government, Vail Resorts, and a number of community nonprofits with additional organizations, and private individuals, which provide local food assistance. In Eagle County’s Roaring Fork Valley, there is the Roaring Fork River Food Alliance (http://www.roaringforkfood.org/) and Lift Up (http://www.liftup.org). Both work hard to make dreams come true.  Churches and other community groups are all working towards delivering a wonderful holiday season to everyone. 

For those unaware, Shop with a Cop begins its holiday magic with the help of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Greater Eagle and Gypsum Fire Protection Districts, and with sponsorships from 4-Eagle Ranch, Walmart, and ECO Transit, as well as numerous donations from businesses and individuals across the entire community.  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 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. 

However, keep in mind that some families keep their difficulties hidden, so please be on the lookout for anyone who you think could use a little extra support this holiday season … you can always be their Secret Santa. The Sheriff’s Office says that it anticipates receipt of extra donations, which will provide toys, food, and other essentials for even more children this year. 

The Salvation Army anticipates close to 400 families in our valley will need assistance this holiday and they aim to give to each child in need. They have a donation store in Traer Creek, where parents select two new toys for each child, so that the presents come from them and not the Salvation Army.  They expect to distribute over 2,000 toys on Dec. 7 plus 500 Thanksgiving boxes. 

Please get involved … the time is now to pay it forward.  This Sat, Nov. 23, at Avon Elementary, the Salvation Army will be putting together Thanksgiving baskets for distribution … please join us! Remember, volunteers and money are what drive results, and the smiles on children’s faces make the time and effort well worth it! In fact, all who participate say that they receive so much more than they give. 

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