MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Santa Claus made a special visit along with the Fraternal Order of Police, bringing holiday cheer to kids and adults at Easterseals of South Florida in Miami. A holiday-themed puppet show with music, dancing, and sing-a-longs provided by the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Community Education team brought the audience to their feet.
Andrew Wilcox is the team’s frontman, he commands the room, getting the group to sing and dance, and even to sit still. While he brings out the energy in the kids and he’s clearly the one having the most fun.
“I’m a little bit crazy,” Wilcox admits.
Loreen Chant, Chief Executive Officer at Easterseals South Florida, knows the crowd and is appreciative of this event every year. This is the puppet show’s 20th year for this audience.
“That room is filled with toddlers all the way to 20-year-olds, filled with energy and enthusiasm for weeks, they’ve known that the police department is coming,” she said.
Community education is a year-long job for this civilian arm of the department which connects with school-age kids and works to keep them safe and out of trouble.
“We address bicycle safety, bullying, drugs, we have a range of issues that we deal with in the schools and all of it is to help them become young productive people in the community and help them be safe and stay out of jail,” Wilcox explained.
At Easterseals many of the audience came for speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or specialized daycare.
“Some of those children have been diagnosed with a lifelong disability, maybe it’s Down’s Syndrome, all kinds of other developmental disabilities, and some of them may be needing early intervention so they are just delayed,” said Chant.
She adds that many in the audience are on the autism spectrum, which makes bringing the police department here in this role so important.
“They are building that trust and that positive relationship with the police department, I think it really has a lot of value,” she said.
Wilcox has experience working at Metro West Jail and has experience with drug treatment programs in the county, but it seems he is really cut out for this role and doesn’t underestimate the importance of this visit.
“This is a population that’s often forgotten about, neglected and when we come and do this Christmas program for them, and to see the love in their eyes, that’s the thing I like about working with our team.” He adds, “I just love people, I love working with people, whether it’s at the Youth Fair where we have a police booth set up or in the classroom with the kids and they know that I love them.”
You can learn more about the Miami-Dade Police Department Community Education Department by visiting their website here.