BALLSTON SPA — Around the holiday season, many nine-year-old children are eagerly awaiting their haul from Santa. Aidan McFarland, however, was more concerned with how he could give back.
McFarland, with help from the local community, delivered Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas morning breakfasts to the Saratoga County Jail, Ballston Spa Police Department, and Saratoga County Sheriff’s Patrol Division.
“I have a friend, and they have a dad that’s a sheriff,” said McFarland. “I noticed that sheriffs have been protecting us for a long time, and I wanted to start serving lunch, dinner, and breakfast. I wanted to support them because they didn’t get to spend time with their family, and they are protecting us.”
Cassandra McFarland, Aidan’s mom, said he hopes to become a sheriff when he grows up. His grandfather, Bill Roner, is also a retired sheriff with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department.
“It was just something he kind of noticed,” said Cassandra McFarland. “The sheriffs work on the holidays; they don’t get days off.”
Roner said they are “having a very difficult time filling positions,” leading to mandatory overtime for many employees.
“Some of these guys are getting minimal sleep and right back at it, and then they’re missing their families,” said Cassandra McFarland. “So we kind of talked about ‘What can we do to brighten up their spirits on a holiday?’, and Aidan said, ‘Let’s bring them food.’”
Cassandra then contacted Roner, her father.
“I got talking to my dad, and he said there’s a lot of guys. If you do just the jail, that’s a lot of guys, but then there’s also the road and the communications, that’s a lot of guys and girls,” said Cassandra. “What about doing Ballston Spa too, not just Saratoga County? It became a big picture at that point.”
Aidan and his mom then recorded a video discussing their goal and uploaded it to Facebook. It caught the attention of members of the American Legion Post 234, who invited Aidan to speak at their next meeting.
Aidan said speaking at the meeting was “really cool, because it was my first time.” He admitted that he was “kind of” nervous, but also said it was exciting.
The McFarlands’ goal also reached members of VFW Post 358, who helped out as well. Between the VFW and Legion posts, coupled with help from friends and family, they raised nearly $850, as well as baked goods and other food, Cassandra McFarland said.
“It was a pretty big turnout,” said Cassandra McFarland.
“It was cool,” added Aidan.
Cassandra said she was “really impressed” with Aidan’s drive and determination, as he took the reins for much of the duration.
“I’d say to him, ‘Do you want to do a live and update people?’, and he was like, ‘Yeah!’,” said Cassandra. “Some days, I thought I was going to talk, and then he’s just babbling on in the video, and I’m like, ‘OK, you got this.’ … It was definitely humbling and emotional to watch your kid do something good.”
And according to Roner, the food was very well-received by employees of the three departments.
“Oh, they loved it,” said Roner. “They couldn’t thank him enough.”
Roner said he recently saw an officer in town, saying the officer told him he had set aside some of the mac and cheese that Aidan had delivered the week prior.
“He came over and said he just finished the last bit of mac and cheese that day,” Roner said. “He said he set it aside so he’d know where it was.”
And the local police gave back to Aidan as well, returning the favor by bringing him in for a tour of the communications department and a ride in a police car.
“It was pretty neat. Christmas Eve, we went in and communications, they were tracking Santa on their computers,” Cassandra said.
“When I was putting on the siren and the light on, the person actually stopped,” said Aidan of his ride in the police car.
Aidan also said it felt good to give back, and said he wants to continue his deliveries during next year’s holiday season.
“It was definitely a rewarding experience, and it feels good to give back,” added Cassandra McFarland.