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Better Than Christmas

By Teresa Rochester

April 22 -- Described as shy, six-year-old Daniel Najera was downright speechless Monday afternoon when a group of police officers showed up at the entrance of Will Roger's Elementary School wheeling a brand new bicycle for the first grader. But his smile said it all.

Najera -- surrounded by two officers assigned to the police department's Third Street Promenade Bicycle Unit, their sergeant, lieutenant and a forensic unit photographer -- eeked out a thank you as he gripped the handlebars of his shiny silver and blue Torquer bike.

"That's so cool," said Najera's father Pablo Moreno, Jr., who was on hand along with his other son 6-year-old Anthony. "Wow, this is a great gift isn't it?"

Officer Karen Thompson, with the help of her partner Officer Steve Wong, bought the bike for Najera after speaking about bicycle safety at his Boy Scout Troop's Bicycle Rodeo on Sunday. Najera, one of nine Tiger Cubs, was the only participant without a bicycle.

Thompson said that what struck her was how Najera patiently waited to take turns on his friend's bikes. "I thought he was sweet," Thompson said. "Nothing but my heart told me to do it."

With help of Jim Wilson of Helen's Cycles on Broadway, who also spoke at the rodeo, Thompson picked out and purchased the bike, which included a bell on the handle bar and a little storage pouch below the seat.

"I was really taken by her wanting to do that to the point of almost throwing in $10 of my own money," said Wilson. Instead he discounted the bike.

A group of students gathered around Najera and the officers, watching in silence and awe as they posed for photos.

After the photographs and hugs and advice on using a helmet, the police prepared to leave and Najera wheeled the bike to the side of the school building. Moreno says this is the first year his son had been involved with Tiger Cubs and both father and son are enjoying it.

"I think it's really great for kids, and parents," said Moreno. "It's healthy… I try to keep my kids busy. You know, healthy bodies, healthy minds. This is a great surprise. I never thought about it. I didn't expect it. I'm overwhlemed."

And now, Moreno tells his younger son, Anthony, that it's his turn for a bike.

"It's good," Dainel said of new wheels.

His brother agreed: "It's great."

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