RIVERDALE -- It's not just Christmas Eve when Santa Claus has to work around the clock.
That was pretty evident Saturday when the jolly man made a 6 a.m. appearance, touching down in a helicopter in the parking lot of the Riverdale Walmart.
The annual Shop With a Hero experience for about 60 children who otherwise wouldn't get Christmas this year went off as usual, with the kids receiving more than $100 in gifts from local law enforcement officers who have gotten to know the children's needs through their police work.
"When they see Santa out there, they just love it," said Weber County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Lemberes. "The parents are not allowed. There are no lists. Parents are not allowed in the store at all."
Lemberes and his partner, Weber County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Gard, organized the effort six years ago and have been excited about what they've been able to accomplish for children without means.
"There were some children participating this year whose parents were the victims of homicide," Lemberes said.
"This event helps them see the police in a different light. ... Some of these children are the destitute of the destitute."
And Lemberes said the money the police spend on the children each year is mostly donated by students at Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace as part of a student government-sponsored fundraiser.
"They not only understand it, they raise the money for it," the deputy said. "Last year, they raised $7,500, and they are working on it again this year."
Before seeing Santa and shopping with the officers, the children got to eat breakfast with the law enforcement professionals who adopted them for the activity.
After that, they rode to the shopping event in the police cars with the sirens blaring and got a chance to talk on the police car's intercom system.
"We let them scream on the intercoms," Lemberes said. "The kids just love it."
The deputy said the same 50 officers generally participate every year. They are from the Pleasant View, North Ogden, South Ogden and Roy police departments, as well as the Weber County Sheriff's Office.
The helicopter that flies in Santa is donated by the Utah Highway Patrol.