Santa, with full police escort, brings cheer to kids of fallen cops

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Santa, with sisters Alana and Avril, and their mother April Nauden. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Santa, accompanied by few burly elves and a police motorcade, made his rounds to several special homes on the South Side Sunday morning.

The do-gooders, all active or retired Chicago Police officers, were on a mission to bring presents and a bit of joy to the families of officers who died in the line of duty.

The annual expedition, dubbed Operation Santa, is jointly run by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and the police department.

After stepping from his sleigh, err, black Cadillac Escalade adorned with reindeer horns, the man in red hugged sisters Avril and Alana Nauden — ages 11 and 9.

Framed photos of their late dad, Chicago Police Ofc. Paul Nauden, hang on every wall in the front room of their Scottsdale neighborhood home, where lights from a well-decorated Christmas tree cast a soft glow.

The Nauden sisters after their father’s death. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

The Nauden sisters after their father’s death. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

The girls were tykes when Nauden, who had no history of heart problems, suffered a heart attack while working an undercover narcotics operation in 2011.

In order to avoid jeopardizing the safety of his fellow undercover officers or the success of the operation, Nauden withdrew himself and was able to walk several blocks away before flagging down a passing ambulance.

Supt. Eddie Johnson in front of a picture of the late Chicago Police Ofc. Paul Nauden. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Supt. Eddie Johnson in front of a picture of the late Chicago Police Ofc. Paul Nauden. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

He died the next morning. He was 46. The investigation he was involved in yielded over a dozen arrests, according to the Police Memorial Foundation.

“It’s really hard when the holidays are all about family, and a piece of our family is missing,” said Nauden’s widow, April.

“You don’t know what to expect when your spouse dies,” she said. “And I never understood exactly what my husband was a part of until now.”

Supt. Eddie Johnson also attended and, along with all officers, received a brief embrace from April.

“This is one of the small things we can do to show police officers who’ve been killed or had traumatic injuries that we’ll never forget,” Johnson said.

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