BARSTOW — If you are a kid on the morning of Dec. 24, retired Barstow Police Officer Tim Heiden has advice for you.
"When you hear the sirens and see the lights, don't run, don't hide, don't flush the toilet. Come out and get a toy," Heiden said Saturday. "We don't stop in front of every house. We will stop in their area. When they hear the sirens, turn the lights on the 24th, go outside. Wrap up your babies and go outside, because they are there."
Heiden and other Christmas Cops and Kids volunteers were recently sitting outside the entrance to Wal-Mart collecting cash and toys. The volunteers have camped outside the Wal-Mart on Fridays and Saturdays since Black Friday. Saturday was the final push to collect toys.
Heiden said this year the drive is dedicated to volunteer Linda Eason, who is battling cancer.
About 200 volunteers are scheduled to head out to all the Barstow, Lenwood, Grandview and Hinkley neighborhoods to pass out toys to every child who shows up Christmas Eve morning.
"We have seven teams and they are all divided into geographic areas," Heiden said. "When we stop, whoever comes, the only requirement is the child has to be present. And we don't have paperwork. We don't check their ages. We don't do anything like that."
Heiden said the final push has collected more cash than previous years.
"Every year we have struggled for money. Every year. This year we have been blessed. A matter of fact, this afternoon we are going to spend $5,000 on more toys," he said.
Heiden told the story of a little boy who won a bike in a contest and decided to donate the new bike. He said one woman also donated a bike because Christmas Cops and Kids helped her so many times in the past.
"Everybody can get a toy and that's what it's all about. It's not about mom and dad having money," Heiden said. "It's about every child being able to see the police officer and know we care about you. Not only do we care about you, we want you to know we are here for you."
Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter@mlambdispatch.