Santa helps sheriff's department replace 6-year-old cancer patient's stolen toy ATV

A San Jose child who's struggling through cancer treatments had his favorite toy stolen by thieves. But the Grinch-like tale has a happy ending, after a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy, and then the department took action.

Mateo Hernandez has always loved his big brother Christopher and law enforcement. So the surprise he’s walking towards is a reminder that love flows both ways. The shy 6-year-old has battled cancer since he was barely old enough to stand. Multiple surgeries and chemotherapy have sapped his spark. Two toys have helped Mateo through the ordeal.

“Legos,” said Mateo, sheepishly.

That, and riding his ATV. The boy was born to ride. This story actually begins back on December 10, when county deputy Jose Cruz was investigating a burglary at the boy’s home. A thief or thieves had stolen Mateo’s ATV, which he loved.

With the help of a translator, Mateo’s mother, Celia Camacho, said her son was inconsolable. That’s when Deputy Cruz came by and dropped off a toy ATV to try to soothe the wound. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department took things a step farther.

“That (event) hit one of my chords. And after that it was history. This is where we’re at,” said Cruz. “I just gave him a little toy, and they boosted it up to two of them now. Two new ATVs.”

Mateo and Christopher thought a pre-arranged ride in a sheriff’s SUV, is one surprise and that a quick flight in the sheriff’s "Star-1" helicopter was another. But these were diversions so that deputies, sponsors, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus could have the new ATVs waiting when the helicopter touched down at the San Martin Airport. 

“It puts us in a different light. But this is the greatest part of our job. Being able to do things like this and help families,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.

The Claus’ helped start Christmas early for the boys. 

“The elves can do wonderful things when it comes down to it. So my hat’s off to them,” said Santa.