Girl, 10, lost police officer father to gun violence, but not holiday joy
BY MATT MCKINNEY Sun-Times Media December 15, 2013 1:56PM
Updated: January 17, 2014 6:25AM
Ten-year-old Naomi Taylor stood grinning beside her mom and two cousins as the parade of police cars pulled up to her South Side home Sunday morning.
The fifth-grader, bundled in a pink winter coat, looked eagerly toward the limousine at the center of the motorcade. The door opened and out stepped Santa Claus.
“This just warms my heart every year,” said Naomi’s mom, Monlade Gogins, 41.
Naomi was one of 35 kids visited by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus over the weekend as part of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s seventh annual “Operation Santa” project. The group delivers gifts each year to the families of slain or seriously injured police officers.
Naomi’s father, Officer Nathan Taylor, was gunned down in September 2008. He was a member of the gangs and narcotics unit.
A Cook County judge last year sentenced Lamar Cooper, 42, to life in prison for killing Taylor, a 14-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.
The foundation partnered for the third straight year with Macy’s; the department store donated $10,000 in gifts for the two-day event.
“This is our way of showing the officers’ families that we haven’t forgotten them,” said Phil Cline, a former Chicago Police Superintendent and current executive director of the foundation. “And that’s almost more important than the presents.”
This is the fifth year “Operation Santa” has visited Taylor’s family. Naomi has been looking forward to it since January, her mother said.
“We’re overwhelmingly thankful,” Gogins said. “It just shows the love and the care they have for family members during this time. I love seeing the smile on my daughter’s face.”
On Sunday, several dozen off-duty police officers followed Naomi into her family’s living room to watch as she opened presents.
A cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by The Jackson 5 played softly in the background, as Naomi thanked Santa Claus and opened her stocking.
“I got a [gift] card, a kitchen towel and a Holy Bible,” Naomi said. “I’m going to take that card and buy some things for my family for Christmas.”
Gogins said Naomi has always been particularly giving, a trait “she gets from family.”
“Her father is smiling all over the place,” Gogins said. “He’s very proud of her.”