‘CHiPs for Kids’ spreads joy to less fortunate

Cassandra McGowan, Reporter

CHiPs for Kids is back for its fourth annual toy drive in Bakersfield, and the local California Highway Patrol office is ready to make some Christmas magic for the less-fortunate children within Kern County.

Robert Rodriguez, the CHP’s public information officer for the Bakersfield office,  started this event locally, but  CHiPs for Kids is a statewide event that has been taking place for over a decade.

Rodriguez said that the need for donations, of all kinds, is major in Kern County and that his passion to help needy children find happiness during the holidays is what drove him to make this event bigger than it was previous to his arrival.

“Here in Kern County this is our fourth annual CHiPs for Kids,” said Rodriguez. “Statewide, it’s been going on for over 10 years, but since I’ve been PIO [Public Information Officer] it’s been here because that was one of my desires in my heart.  I wanted to do this CHiPs for Kids.

“We had a very small toy drive before where we would just kind of collect maybe 100 toys or so and donate them to the homeless shelter, but we have an actual CHiPs for Kids program and I just thought, “Well let’s do CHiPs for Kids here in Kern County.”

He said the last day to donate a new, unwrapped toy is Dec. 16 but the CHP office will accept donations made up to Dec. 20 because the distribution event isn’t until Dec. 23.

“Our toy drop-off event is going to take place on Dec. 6 and that’s going to be at Motor City.  People can just drive in and drop off their toy and that’s going to be between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.  It’s going to be a huge party in the morning, it’s usually a huge party in the morning,” said Rodriguez.

Another toy drop-off event will be held on Dec. 12 at the Bakersfield Californian building in downtown Bakersfield from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Donations can also be dropped off at any time to Motor City, the United Way on Stockdale Highway, the Bakersfield Californian building, as well as the CHP office on Buck Owens Boulevard.

Cash or check donations are also welcome and Rodriguez said the officers will use these donations to shop for items to be distributed at the Dec. 23 event.

He points out that the age range they distribute gifts to is from zero to 16 and asks the community not to leave out the older kids who are also in need.

“A lot of the time those older kids get kind of left out so we want to encourage people to provide different gifts for older children and blankets are an option there, as well as shaving kits, nail products, and whatever other stuff women use [such as] hair products,” said Rodriguez. “If you can find a reasonable jewelry set that’s definitely an option, or perfume and cologne.”

He said that the toy drive has grown significantly since its first year, and he attributes that growth to the generous nature of the Bakersfield and Kern County communities. He also said that the people within these communities see how many families are struggling and the community is always willing to lend a helping hand.

“You know, the Bakersfield community is amazing.  On the law enforcement side of it you know you have to go out there and you have to do your job, you have to enforce the law and everything, but when you’re on the PR [public relations] side of it and you actually have to work with the community leaders and different communities around Kern County, I mean you really get to experience just how giving people are here in Kern County.  Our first year we had about 1,000 kids and this year we’re looking to increase that to close to 5,000 kids, so it has been very very successful,” said Rodriguez.

“I know there are several different toy drives, coat drives, canned food drives, you know, whatever is going on and you just put the word out and they’re there. People just show up to help because the need is so great, it’s just so great all over Kern County.  I can only speak for our county because we live here and you see it when you’re out on patrol.”

He said that the CHP is just happy that they are able to alleviate some of the burden for families during the holidays.

He said that his favorite part about CHiPs for Kids is seeing the massive smiles plastered across the faces of the receiving child or teen and the hugs the officers receive in return for their gift.

“There are a lot of kids that have needs and maybe that might be their only Christmas so we want to be able to help them out as much as we can, and that’s probably it right there for me, getting the hugs and seeing the looks on the kids’ faces when they walk out with their toy,” said Rodriguez.