55. Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson & his deputies provide Christmas cheer for local children

Top 100 Local Stories of 2014 in Central Florida / Headline Surfer®
Sheriff's deputies give kids a Christmas /in DeLand, Fla. /  Headline Surfer®Volusia County Sheriff's deputies provide Christmas for kids in DeLand, FL / Headline Surfer®Photos for Headline Surfer® / 
Volusia County Sheriff's Sgt. Dominick Amendolare, far left, and senior deputy Kim Woodard, are among the dozens of law enforcers under Sheriff Ben Johnson once again providing Christmas joy to children whose families are among the countless they serve and protect year round.
 

DELAND, Fla. -- There's nothing worse for a child than Christmas without a present. Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson and his deputies won't let a single child go without a toy of some kind for the holidays anywhere in this county of half a million residents when made aware of such despair.

Even if the surface is just scratched, the men and women in green do their part for those whose daily lives can be difficult enough just feeling loved or suffering from any number of life's challenges through no fault of their own in some instances.

And the 2014 Christmas season was no different than any of the others that preceded it since Ben Johnson took office as sheriff back in 2001, with the annual "100 Deputies/100 Kids" program in early December. 

“For many of the children, (this) is their only holiday,” Sheriff Johnson told Headline Surfer®. “The joy on their faces just warms your heart. This is our way to strengthen bonds and bring joy to young lives.”

And who can argue with that?

VVolusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson & his deputies share Christmas with kids in DeLand, FL / Headline Surfer®olusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson is shown here shaking hands with then-Deputy Alex Taylor with Sheriff's Sgt. Tom Tatumin the background.

And the 2014 Christmas season was no different than any of the others that preceded it since Ben Johnson took office as sheriff back in 2001, with the annual "100 Deputies/100 Kids" program in early December. 

“For many of the children, (this) is their only holiday,” Sheriff Johnson told Headline Surfer®. “The joy on their faces just warms your heart. This is our way to strengthen bonds and bring joy to young lives.”

And who can argue with that?

The selflessness of Sheriff Ben Johnson and his deputies for the children at Christmas comes in at No. 55 in the HeadlineSurfer.com countdown of the top 100 stories of 2014.

Families facing hardships are nominated by deputies, school crossing guards and guidance counselors to attend the party. Deputies serve as official hosts and escorts for the evening, picking up their families in their patrol cars for the ride to the Volusia County Agricultural Center.

Volusia County Sheriff's deputies share Christmas with kids in DeLand, FL / Headline Surfer®Volusia County Sheriff's deputies share Christmas with kids in DeLand, FL / Headline Surfer®Photos for Headline Surfer® /
Sheriff's Capt. Erik Eagan, is shown far left sharing a laugh with a little girl at the '100 Deputies / 100 Kids' party in DeLand.
In the inset is Sheriff's Sgt. Pat Leahy chatting with a little boy and his mom after pizza.
 

The program was first launched in 1989, and has been enthusiastically carried on since Johnson took office in 2001.

For the Sheriff’s Office, it’s an opportunity to bond with children and give back to the community.

A committee spends much of the year planning the event and raising money through private donations to fund the party. Using donated money, the group goes on a Walmart shopping spree and fills baskets to the brim with about $10,400 worth of gifts for the children.

At the end of the shopping spree, Walmart offsets part of the expenses by presenting the 100 Deputies/100 Kids Committee with a $4,500 donation.

Then comes the magical night at a banquet hall at the Volusia County fairgrounds on the outskirts of DeLand on State Road 44.

Once the party is in full swing, volunteers shuffle about the room with incredible efficiency, serving up a dinner full of kid favorites -- pizza, chips and holiday treats.

With lots of pizza eaten and rising excitement, the children prepare for one of the highlights of the evening -- a visit from Santa. Then, it's time to hand out the presents.

The evening ends after 2½ hours with a parade of blue lights and sirens as the families and deputy escorts depart en-masse.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories narly eveenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in Wst Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.