By Alyssa Spoon, Office Technician
California Medical Facility
California Medical Facility (CMF) hosted the second Operation Santa on Dec. 23-25, led by Chief Physician and Surgeon Dr. Michele DiTomas and other staff from the CMF Medical Department. In the spirit of giving, medical staff and local community members from Berkeley gathered a collection of toys and games for children with incarcerated parents.
A total of 130 toys were donated to CMF for children of all ages, allowing incarcerated parents the opportunity to provide gifts to their children. During the institution’s holiday visiting hours, custody staff facilitated gift distribution through a ticket system, ensuring that each visiting child received a holiday present.
In 2016, California Medical Facility received its first donation of toys from Dr. DiTomas, in partnership with a Berkeley elementary school and a family-owned Berkeley toy store.
In its first year, 120 toys were distributed to families visiting CMF inmates over the holiday weekend. After receiving positive feedback regarding Operation Santa, Dr. DiTomas knew this project needed to continue.
“I had heard of a project that donated gifts to children with incarcerated parents,” said Dr. DiTomas. “I know how hard it can be for our patients and their families during the holidays, and thought it would be nice if the men who had children visiting could actually give their loved ones a gift; something special from them for the holidays.”
In addition to the benefit for families on the receiving end of this donation, Berkeley community members have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this operation within their own families.
“Several of the families who donated to the project actually thanked me for giving them the opportunity to talk with their children about the issues that children with incarcerated parents face. They saw it as an opportunity to teach their children empathy and sharing with those who struggle,” said Dr. DiTomas. “Everyone involved benefited.”