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Girl who lost mom in Christmas tragedy finds hope thanks to first responders

One 6-year-old girl told police Santa Claus didn't visit on Christmas because "Mom wouldn't wake up," according to Officer Dave Morris.
/ Source: TODAY

One California police officer brought smiles to the face of a 6-year-old who tragically lost her mother on Christmas Day thanks to one small gesture.

Livermore police and firefighters came to the aid of the young girl, after, as the department wrote on Facebook, emergency workers found her 39-year-old mother unconscious at a local hotel.

"[She told me] Santa didn't come because Mom wouldn't wake up," officer Dave Morris told "It broke my heart."

"This little girl's constitution and disposition on life was unbelievable," Morris said. "I have a daughter, who's 21 now, but she just reminded me of my own daughter at that age. And [I mas moved by] her sunny disposition and her outlook on life, and just how everything is glorious, even under the circumstances... She was just crazy smart and lovable. And I absolutely fell in love with her."

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First responders transported the mom to a nearby hospital, where she died from diabetes complications later that day. The girl, whose name we are withholding for privacy purposes, was "placed with a foster family," the department wrote on Facebook, until a family member from Florida could pick her up.

As Christmas Day became Christmas night, Morris felt he had to do more. And he wasn't alone.

"This little girl had just lost her mom, and didn't get a Christmas," said Morris. "I couldn't sleep. It was rough, so I called our dispatch center and said, 'Hey, listen, I've got an idea. I'd like to do something nice for this little girl... We'll all donate a gift and we'll give this little girl a Christmas.'"

Little did Morris know, by the time he got into work at 6 a.m. on Dec. 26, the local fire department was involved.

"They donated a bunch of toys," he said. "They donated a $250 Safeway [gift] card, a $100 Target card out of their foundation."

In addition, Morris said the Livermore Police Officers Association's president, Glen Robbins, "authorized whatever I wanted, without hesitating, so we sent an officer over to Target and Wal-Mart by 7 o'clock in the morning. The next thing I know, we have literally, no exaggeration, a truckload of presents for this little girl."

Later that day, all the uniformed well-wishers and their truck full of presents visited the girl at her temporary residence.

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"I said, 'Yesterday, when you asked about Christmas, it turns out Santa got your room wrong and put your presents in the wrong space. He got a hold of me and asked me to deliver his presents for you. Are you ready for your Christmas?'" Morris said. "And her eyes just — boom, BOOM — lit up. She's standing in the middle of the kitchen and was like, 'Oh, my God! I'm so excited!'"

Her gifts, Morris said, included two "huge" plastic totes of properly sized clothing, as well as toys and gift cards. Despite the tragic circumstances, the presents brought a smile to the little girl's face.

"We showed up with so many presents, it took her more than an hour to open everything," Morris said.

The moments of joy, however, were mixed with deep sorrow.

"We were just all in tears," Morris said. "At one point, she puts a bow on her head and says, 'Oh, Mommy's going to love this,' and she doesn't know her mom had passed yet. It was just absolutely heart-wrenching."

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That's why emergency workers haven't stopped there. Robbins, the LPOA president, launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the mother's funeral expenses. Within 24 hours of the fundraising page's launch Monday, the original goal was met, and additional funds can now be used to start a trust fund and/or college fund for the little girl, Morris said. More than $28,000 had been raised as of Thursday morning.

"We've received emails and text messages from around this country, from businesses that are saying, 'Hey, listen, if this family sets up a trust fund account, we'll make yearly donations on her behalf," Morris noted. "Our own Police Association is offering to do that [too]. And [her] grandma is 100 percent on board with all of this. She's a registered nurse in Florida, and she's just amazing."

Morris said that in his 20 years as Livermore police officer, few incidents have overwhelmed him to this degree.

"This little girl did so much more for me than I could ever do for her," he added. "It's not about me; it's about what we as an organization, as a city, as a community, as a country can do for this little girl."

Follow writer Chris Serico on Twitter.