Check out this fantastic article courtesy of the Boston Herald's Matt Stout. Stout reached out to Boston Police Sgt. Paul McLaughlin of the Boston Police Homicide Unit to discuss his selfless display of Christmas Cheer.
Family’s tragedy put aside, for a day
Cops chip in for gifts to girl’s survivors
Thursday, December 26, 2013
by Matt Stout
Boston police Sgt. Paul McLaughlin spends his days tracking killers. After 16 years in homicide, he says, “I’ve seen a lot of these things.”
But few cases like this one have ever been so “devastating,” he said.
Grendalee Alvarado, 26, and her 7-year-old daughter, Brianna Rosales, were walking home from school along Olney Street on Nov. 26 when police say 36-year-old Olivia Mora — allegedly drunk behind the wheel of an SUV — came “flying” down the street, jumped the curb and slammed into them two days before Thanksgiving.
Brianna was killed. Alvarado, a mother of three other young children, suffered severe injuries that keep her hospitalized today.
“It broke my heart,” McLaughlin said. “And to be honest with you, I was talking to my wife about it. I said, ‘Jeez, I feel helpless. I wish I can do something.’”
So McLaughlin and his wife, Paula, started calling friends. And posting on Facebook. And both began talking to co-workers. And over the next three weeks, “we would come home, and the mailbox would be full of stuff and there would be stuff on the stoop,” McLaughlin said.
On Monday, McLaughlin, his wife, and Boston Police Detectives Jamie Sheehan and Jeff Cecil loaded up McLaughlin’s cruiser and “played the part of Santa Claus,” he said, delivering mounds of gifts to the Braintree rehabilitation hospital where Alvarado is recuperating.
The plan, McLaughlin said, was to surprise her three children — ages 5, 4 and 2 — with the gifts on Christmas morning when they visited her.
“I don’t know how many we brought. … But we filled up the entire back of my cruiser and most of the front seat, too,” said McLaughlin, ticking off a family’s dream Christmas list: toys, puzzles, pajamas, new winter jackets and “several outfits for each kid,” not to mention gift cards to Target, Stop & Shop and toy stores.
Many of the 25-plus who contributed gave gifts. Some simply donated cash, and Paula McLaughlin did the shopping. And when it was time to wrap everything, their own three grown-up kids helped, too, McLaughlin said.
“When I did this, I didn’t have any intention ...” McLaughlin said, starting a phrase he repeated several times throughout the interview. “We did it so they could have a nice Christmas, not for anyone to pat us on the back. They’re good people, they’re nice people.
“She (Alvarado) is a very positive, a very strong woman who knows — as much as a tragedy that she’s gone through — she has three other kids that she needs to be strong for. It was inspirational to hear her say she needs to get better for her kids,” McLaughlin said.
The still-grieving family declined to comment for this story. McLaughlin said he plans to check in with the family this week to hear how the Christmas surprise went. It’s a safe bet it’ll bring McLaughlin a smile, which can be rare in his line of work.
“We tend to do the delivering of bad news more than we’re delivering good news,” McLaughlin said. “I left a house of a family (yesterday) having to tell them about their son being killed. It’s devastating stuff to do. And this was a devastating case.
“There are still people calling (to give). We just said, ‘Wait, there might be something that needs to be done at a later time.’ ... I just think back to how special Christmas was when the kids were little and how much they look forward to opening up presents.
“Sometimes,” he added, “it’s the simplest things in their stocking (that matter most), the little odds and ends, things they can play with all day.”
The article can also be viewed here.