Police department donates $20,000 worth of toys to children's hospital

PHOTO: Coeur dAlene police officers, detectives and youth outreach members stand with boxes of donated toys packed for delivery on Dec. 18, 2018.PlayCoeur d'Alene Police Department
WATCH News headlines today: Dec. 21, 2018

Christmas came early for patients at a Washington state children’s hospital thanks to a small town police department.

On Dec. 20, the police department of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, donated roughly $20,000 worth of toys -- filling 63 U-Haul boxes -- to the Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Washington.

This is the third year in a row that the department has gathered toys and donations for children who can’t go home for the holidays.

PHOTO: Patient Averie Green looks at toys in the Santa Store at Sacred Heart Childrens Hospital in Spokane, Wash., Dec. 20, 2018. Providence Health Care Foundation
Patient Averie Green looks at toys in the "Santa Store" at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Spokane, Wash., Dec. 20, 2018.

The tradition began when one of the police officer's children spent Christmas in the hospital a few years ago.

Caiden Avriett, the son of Sergeant Shane Avriett, was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia in 2015, a condition that left a hole in the muscle between his chest and abdomen.

Caiden was on life support over the holidays in 2015. When Avriett walked into his son’s hospital room on Christmas Day, he found a pile of donated toys.

PHOTO: Caiden Avriett is pictured in the newborn intensive care unit with toys donated for him at Sacred Heart Childrens Hospital in Spokane, Wash., in 2015. Courtesy Tara Avriett
Caiden Avriett is pictured in the newborn intensive care unit with toys donated for him at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Spokane, Wash., in 2015.

“To have a 5-day-old child fighting for his life, hooked up to machines, and have someone donate toys, was such a positive spin on what we were going through,” Avriett told ABC News.

The experience gave him the idea to spread holiday cheer to other families.

“If your child wakes up Christmas morning and they are not in their bed it means a lot to know someone in the community cares that they are fighting something big,” Avriett said.

PHOTO: A 14-foot police trailer is stuffed with toys after a donation drive in Hayden, a suburb of Coeur dAlene, Idaho, Dec. 15, 2018. Coeur dAlene Police Department
A 14-foot police trailer is stuffed with toys after a donation drive in Hayden, a suburb of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Dec. 15, 2018.

The “Santa Store” is located inside Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, where patients can pick out a present for themselves or for their families.

“This is what Christmas is all about -- giving to one another,” Kathy Maurer, director of marketing for the Providence HealthCare Foundation, told ABC News. “We do whatever we can to bring some sense of normalcy to children in the hospital.”

PHOTO: Walmart shopping carts are filled with toys for a donation drive in Hayden, a suburb of Coeur dAlene, Idaho, Dec. 15, 2018. Coeur dAlene Police Department
Walmart shopping carts are filled with toys for a donation drive in Hayden, a suburb of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Dec. 15, 2018.

The toy drive also brings joy to the hospital staff and volunteers.

“For our staff and volunteers to see these kids carefully select just the right gifts and see the smiles on their faces, it makes it worthwhile,” Maurer said. “The Santa Store is an ongoing tradition and we can’t imagine Christmas without it.”