Operation Santa makes sure families of fallen officers aren’t forgotten


CHICAGO — It can be a tough time of year for those who’ve lost loved ones.

This year, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation brought back an annual tradition to honor more than a dozen officers.

They delivered holiday cheer on Sunday for those who’ve served.

For more than 15 years, Operation Santa’s worked to bring gifts and well-wishes to law enforcement officers severely injured in the line of duty and the families of fallen officers.

This year, 18 homes are being visited.

Among those is Chicago police Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., who was shot during a traffic stop in August 2021. His partner, Ella French, was killed.

On the southwest side, they visited the families of two officers killed in the line of duty in December 2018.

It included a stop to see the family of Officer Eduardo Marmelejo.

He and his partner, Officer Conrad Gray, were struck by a commuter train on Chicago’s Far South Side and killed while investigating possible gunfire in the area.

The gifts bring joy to the children left behind.

“When you show up, it’s saying ‘We’re thinking of you. We understand and we don’t know what to do but showing up is a big deal,’” Maria Marmolejo, Officer Marmolejo’s widow, said. “For me, it’s important and reminds me that they will never forget.”

Dawn Dolan with the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation said that’s their mission: To make sure the families know they haven’t forgotten about them.

“The holiday season can be a troubling and difficult time for those who’ve lost a loved one, Dolan said. “They’re our Chicago police officers and our Chicago police families and we just want them to know we are here for them, and we remember them.”

These families, feeling a strong bond of blue, especially for the holidays.

“Any parent wants to see their child happy and that’s what’s important for me,” Marmolejo said.

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