Police hope now-viral 'Operation Santa Surprise' inspires others
NORTH PORT (FOX 13) - When a man outside Walmart needed help, Melissa Whittington didn't blink an eye. She and her son Philip dropped everything and came to his aid.
She was blown away by what happened next.
"I want to do something for you," said the man.
"I am just glad you are OK," Melissa replied.
"What would you like for the little boy?" he asked.
"Today is his birthday," she responded.
Melissa opened up to World War II veteran Bill Greenham. She told him it has been a rough year for her family.
"Believe it or not, I don't have one present for his birthday," she continued.
As they chatted, Bill asked her to wait. His hidden elves were busy working to help.
They worked to create a Christmas that Melissa could only dream of.
"This is for him," said a North Port police officer as he handed Philip a scooter.
VIDEO: See the whole exchange
The surprise is part of the North Port Police Department's "Operation Santa Surprise."
Bill was a decoy. Anyone who stopped to help or show him kindness was rewarded.
North Port police helped 15 families in total, giving them toys and whatever they asked for.
"To have cops come out and not give you a ticket or pull you over, they are always there to help you. They are always there to help you and I think it shows the kids as they grow up these officers are here to help you," said Melissa.
For North Port police the real gift is the act of giving.
"It could have been a $5 gift or a couple-hundred-dollar gift and to just be able to help somebody out, it's just the deed of recognizing good behavior or a good deed," said Officer Joseph Fussell.
Which, officers hope, will inspire even more good deeds now that video of their exchange, shared by FOX 13 News, has been seen by millions of people on Facebook.
"Pay it forward and create a ripple effect. You just did a good deed. Do it nice to someone else and see how many people we can affect," Officer Fussell added.