NEWPORT ( — Dozens of children battling illnesses were treated to a special cruise Monday evening to look at holiday lights.

Many of the families that took part in the cruise, put on through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, are aware that they will spend this Christmas in the hospital, and the event provided a unique and spectacular way to celebrate the holidays.

Santa was on board as well, handing out presents and taking requests from dozens of children battling life-threatening illnesses.

It was the 14th year the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County and Inland Empire held the Newport dinner cruise, and kids and families alike took joy in the foundation’s most requested event of the year.

“Because of her immune system always being down and we can’t really go anywhere, they just say (to) keep away from people, keep away from kids,” Veronica Sanchez said of her daughter’s condition. “So I’m very happy that we’re here.”

Orange County Sheriff Department’s Sandra Hutchens has volunteered for the event for four years, but this year, the cruise took on special meaning.

“I just finished, a few months ago, treatment for breast cancer,” Sheriff Hutchens said. “So, I know what they’re going through, and my heart really goes out to them.”

For a night, at least, the children got to enjoy the holiday season away from the hospital walls, chemotherapy and other trials of their courageous battles.

“So many lights, I love it.”

In the meantime, CBS2/KCAL9 and the California Highway Patrol have teamed up to deliver donated toys for children around Southern California. Any toy donated at drop-off locations, including all CHP offices, Mattel Toy Stores, Walgreens Pharmacies and local malls between now and Christmas Eve will be given to a child in need through the CHiPS For Kids program.


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