Teri Landreth, Townsquare Media

The story is, if you’re naughty, you don’t get anything for Christmas, and if you’re good, you’re going to get gifts.  I tried to be as good as I could, but when Christmas rolled around, there was nothing under our tree…”  Officer Jose Ruiz, Cheyenne Police Department.

Meet Officer Jose Ruiz, with the Cheyenne Police Department.  He’s an amazing person, not only serving as an officer in our community, but for having such a big heart for families in need, because as a child, his family was a one of them!  Now Officer Ruiz NEEDS YOUR HELP to help struggling, local families in our community,  by giving to “Holidays With Heroes!”

As a child, Officer Ruiz’ family faced many challenges.  His mom and dad struggled very hard to bring up 6 children with very little money.  When Officer Ruiz was only 10 years old, all he ever wanted was a football.  His family could barely keep food on the table much less give him or his other siblings any presents for Christmas.  One year, when Officer Ruiz was just 10 years old, a police officer knocked on their door, carrying some presents.  One of them was a football that Officer Ruiz dreamed about all year long.  His sister got a few presents as well.  There were many Christmas’ that they didn’t have one single gift, so he was so excited that he finally got that gift that worked so hard to be "that good little boy on Santa's nice list" for so many years.  His 12 year old sister also got some gifts that Christmas Day.

However, his other sister who was only 13, and the rest of the siblings who were over the age of 12, didn’t receive any gifts for Christmas because they were too old for the age limit, something Officer Ruiz recalled as extremely bittersweet.  He felt so bad that the rest of his brothers and sisters were left out. But that day changed his life forever.

When he grew up, he not only wanted to be a police officer, like the “hero” who stopped by that day, but he also wanted to help local families in need for Christmas, not just the children,but EVERYONE in the family.  He wanted to make sure that ALL the kids, including the parents, would receive a Christmas gift, so they could ALL enjoy the spirit of Christmas together.  That’s how “Holidays With Heroes” was born.

After his own personal experience, Officer Ruiz wanted to make sure that NO family would ever have to explain that they didn’t have enough money to get gifts for all the family members. He also wanted to make sure that local families, who live here in Laramie County, receive the help they need through this wonderful program.

Officer Ruiz started “Holidays With Heroes” with the Cheyenne Police Department, City Fire Departments, Laramie County Sheriff’s Department and American Medical Response in 2009.  He recalls that they started out helping 6 families that year.  Since then, local families needing help in Laramie County have risen to 78 families, and anticipates that this year, the need will only be greater.

Since “Holidays With Heroes” is not a well known non profit as some of the more nationally known charities, he wants to spread the word in hopes that we all can open up our hearts to help these increasing families in need have a wonderful holiday.  After all, it’s the spirit of giving to others, that’s the true gift of Christmas; and you couldn’t ask or receive better gift that that!

You can help these local families living right here in our community, by donating new items for gifts,  including new, unwrapped toys for kids of all ages, handbags, tools, perfume, any type of gift for kids, teens parents and grandparents.  Officer Ruiz also stated that since they’re a small organization, they don’t have many volunteers to sort through clothing, so they ask that you not donate clothing but rather donate gift cards for department stores and clothiers, so that family members can get what clothes and sizes they need.

Drop off locations include:

*Family Dollar store on East Lincolnway

*Petco on Del Range Boulevard

*Carousel Kids on East Pershing Boulevard

* Walgreen’s at both the East Lincolnway and Del Range Boulevard locations

* Cheyenne Fire Headquarters just off west 19th Street

* Cheyenne Police Department at 20th and Capitol in downtown Cheyenne

We’ve also talked with Nick Dodgson with Speedy Lube Services who has also volunteered to set up a donation bin at his location just off Del Range Boulevard on Frontier Mall Drive, behind the Boot Barn!

“Holidays With Heroes” is also accepting money donations with a special “Holidays With Heroes Account” set up through Wy Hy Federal Credit Union, just off Del Range Boulevard on Stillwater Avenue, in Cheyenne.

Keep listening for more details on how you can help local families right here in our community with “Holidays With Heroes!”  Meantime, please help spread the word, and be a hero to a family in need  RIGHT NOW, and drop off your donations today!