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Guatemalan family of 5 'adopted' by 2 West Palm PD officers in time for Christmas

Posted at 12:47 PM, Dec 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-22 17:32:41-05

A surprise for a family living off Tamarind Avenue started with a wish list for Christmas. 

“We were participating in the annual Shop with a Cop event that the West Palm Beach Police Department does every year,” said Officer Ray Lopez, a three-year veteran with the department. “And we came across this family.”

“They get a bunch of donations, so they can take the children of these families shopping,” said Officer Kassandra Placeres, a five-year veteran with WPBPD. “At the bottom of the [Shop with a Cop] application is a wishlist…I pulled out the application just to see what kind of stuff they were asking for. You know if you’re kids, you’re going to the toy section.”

“But this family had just put ‘food’,” said Lopez. “So it really got our attention.”

“I asked [the little boy], ‘You have $150. What do you want to spend it on?’ and his response to me was food. There was no way this family was going to leave with just the $150 that they gave us for the event,” said Placeres.

Both Placeres and Lopez, who have children of their own, decided to hold a fundraiser for the family. First, they reached out to family and friends for food donations, clothing and toys, whatever people could donate.

“And then I decided to put it on Facebook,” Placeres said with a smile.

Suddenly, donations began pouring in from organizations like Palm Beach Gardens dispatchers and North Palm officers, to name a few.

In a few weeks, Placeres and Lopez gathered enough donations to fill a S.W.A.T. truck, so with the permission of the children’s parents, they decided to surprise the children.

WPTV’s cameras were there for the surprise, and the S.W.A.T. truck rolled up to their house, and these kids ran into the arms of Placeres and Lopez.

“It broke my heart,” said Placeres. “I have kids, young kids, and I immediately started thinking about them, and not being able to fathom a world where my seven-year-old son is not excited about Christmas, but instead is asking for food.”

Donations included not just food, but toys, clothes and gift cards for the family of five from Guatemala.

The Fraternal Order of Police is also providing Christmas dinner for the family.