It was a wintery wonderland today in Southern California…at least in one corner of Whittier, it was, when real snow was trucked into the Sheriff’s Training and Regional Services (STARS) Center for the 999 for Kids Program holiday event.
 
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services created the 999 for Kids Program 30 years ago.  The mission:  Assist severely disabled and abused children who were victims of the most severe cases of child abuse, neglect and domestic violence.  For the last 30 years, children participating in the 999 for Kids program have been treated to a holiday party where they can find joy in a safe environment particularly designed for their happiness and which accommodates any of their special needs.  At the makeshift North Pole village, the children receive toys, are treated to a meal from McDonald’s fast food restaurants, and participate in entertainment activities including train rides, inflatable jumpers and face-painting.  
 
This year’s holiday event took place on Sunday, December 4, 2016, at the Sheriff’s Training and Regional Services (STARS) Center in Whittier.  The facility grounds were wondrously transformed into a glistening and glittery yuletide hamlet, where around 1,000 participating children arrived and were warmly greeted by sworn and professional staff members of the Sheriff’s Department.  The kiddies got to play in the snow, which many of them had never seen or touched before; they visited Santa’s toy workshop, made personalized holiday crafts, rode a merry-go-round, and got their pictures taken with Santa Claus.         
 
Student volunteers from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) partnered in the event and provided greatly-appreciated donations of clothing, accessories, school supplies, and books to each participating family.  The brand-new, unused fashion articles and sundries were originally received by the FIDM Scholarship Foundation’s store, located in downtown Los Angeles, as donations from retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and showrooms.  The merchandise is sold at the Scholarship Store at below wholesale prices and sales proceeds generate scholarships for current FIDM students.  Approximately 25% of the merchandise is not sold, but designated as donations to local families in need, including the 999 for Kids Program.
 
Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who participated in the festivities, said, “I am extremely proud of this collaboration and thankful for the return in smiles we receive.  Today marks the 30th anniversary of the 999 for Kids annual holiday event; with the support of our partners in this venture, the hard work of many, and the compassion of all involved, this act of humanitarianism continues to flourish in its second generation of success.”

Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip L. Browning also attended the celebration and said, “The Sheriff’s 999 for Kids program supports DCFS medically fragile and deaf foster youth throughout the year. This year’s annual holiday celebration was a magical experience for nearly 1,000 youth and their caregivers.  The smiles on the children’s faces while playing in the snow, riding the train, or meeting with Santa was priceless.  DCFS is very grateful to all in the Sheriff’s Department who made this such a memorable event.”

The 999 for Kids program was created in 1985 through a joint effort of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the County’s Department of Children and Family Services. The two county agencies began working together after they recognized a need to help physically and mentally challenged children who are medically vulnerable or are victims of the most severe cases of child abuse, neglect and family violence.
 
The program raises money to purchase special items and services for these children, including sport wheelchairs, computers, special education classes, and medically-oriented toys and games. The funds send children to summer camps for the deaf, blind and those with other medical issues who would not otherwise have such positive experiences.
 
Identifying children’s needs and meeting them — that’s the goal of 999 for Kids.
 
To read more about the good things 999 for Kids does, please navigate our website at:  http://sheriffsyouthfoundation.org/programs/999-for-kids/ 
 
For Information about the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, visit our website at www.lasd.org 
 
To learn more about the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, click:  http://dcfs.co.la.ca.us/index.html 
 
The FIDM Scholarship Foundation was established in 1978 with the express mission of helping students and their families meet the challenges of financing a college education.  The FIDM Scholarship Foundation, Inc., established in 1978, is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3).  For more information, please visit their website at:  http://fidmscholarshipfoundation.org/ 
 
Written by:
Deputy Lillian Peck
Sheriff’s Information Bureau
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
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Jim McDonnell, Sheriff
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department