PAOLA — When 4-year-old Zaydin Reynolds heard the sound of a fire truck pulling up in front of his Paola home on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 19, he quickly ran to the window.

As soon as he saw Santa Claus hop off and start walking toward his house, Zaydin threw on his jacket and darted out the door and down the front steps.

There’s no time for shoes in such situations.

Beating his siblings was crucial, as Zaydin wanted to be the first to give the big man in red a hug.

Scampering barefoot through his front yard, Zaydin excitedly leapt into Santa’s arms before Kris Kringle could even say “Merry Christmas.”

“He’s been looking forward to this all day,” his mother said. “Santa is his favorite person.”

Zaydin was just one of the many children in Miami County whose Christmas wishes came true Saturday thanks to the effort of Santa Claus and volunteers with the Cops for Tots program at the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.

This is the 25th year for the program, which began in 1995 as a tribute, dedicated to the memory of Sheriff Ken Davis. Every year, community members adopt children in need also known as “angels” from an angel tree at the sheriff’s office and then buy Christmas gifts for them. Volunteers help wrap and organize the gifts, and they are delivered a few days before Christmas with help from sheriff’s office deputies and local firefighters.

Volunteers bundled up and battled an icy wind Saturday morning as they packed gift bags onto fire trucks and sorted grocery bags at a storage facility in the Paola Industrial Park.

Osawatomie firefighters took gifts and groceries to distribute in their community, while firefighters and sheriff’s deputies canvassed the Paola area. Some items were also taken to Louisburg.

Lead organizer Barb Fisher said there were 383 angels this year, which is about 10 more than last year. Gifts were packaged together for each household, and Fisher said there were 72 stops in Osawatomie, about 30 less in Paola and only four in Louisburg.

Paola firefighters made Saturday’s delivery fun by wearing Santa hats and activating the truck’s lights and sirens as they pulled up to homes. Third-generation firefighter Jake Hinman even wore a Christmas sweater for the special occasion.

Santa Claus knocked on the doors and greeted children, and other volunteers handed Price Chopper grocery bags to grateful parents.

In addition to the Christmas gift deliveries, Cops for Tots helps local children and families throughout the year when assistance is needed, and the program also helps stock local food pantries.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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