Idaho Falls (EastIdahoNews.com) – The call came in around noon on Sunday. A 17-year-old boy with autism told dispatchers he had been kicked out of his apartment and was at a neighbor’s home wondering what to do.
Idaho Falls Police Officers Travis Morris and Preston Littlewood responded to The Buttes Apartments to find out what was going on.
“The teenager was distraught and told us his mom had kicked him out. We tried to talk with her but she wouldn’t speak to us,” Littlewood says. “We worked to calm him down and suggested he go over to his friend’s house while we figured things out.”
That friend was Kaesha Smith – a single mother of two boys, ages 4 and 12. She’s known her teen neighbor, whom EastIdahoNews.com is not identifying, for several months and taken him under her wing. He and her 12-year-old get along especially well.
“He has had a pretty hard life. His mom is an alcoholic and over the last year he’s stayed at my house several times when things are going on at his apartment,” Smith says. “He’s had holes in his shoes so I’ve bought him shoes and clothes and other things to make sure he’s doing ok.”
Morris and Littlewood learned the teen had asked his mom if he was going to get anything for Christmas this year. She apparently became irate and told him to leave, according to Littlewood.
“She threatened him that somebody else can take care of him,” Smith says through tears. “He got a message telling him to come back and get all of his stuff out of the apartment. His mom had put it all in a box on the porch and there he is carrying all of his belongings over to my house. He’s 17. I just cried. It’s bad enough that it happened but two days before Christmas is more heartbreaking.”
Morris and Littlewood learned the teenager’s school had sent him home with food for the holiday break because he often arrived for class hungry.
Smith told the officers that the boy was welcome to stay in her home for Christmas, even though she is financially strapped trying to care for her own children.
The officers left the apartment and knew they needed to do something more.
“He told us that he wanted an Xbox One for Christmas. He had an Xbox 360 that his mother had broken so he really wanted a new gaming system,” Littlewood says.
With the help of funding from the Idaho Falls Fraternal Order of Police, the officers paid a late night visit to Target and purchased the teen a Nintendo DS with five games.
“Target was so generous and offered us a nice discount so we were able to get Kaesha a $40 Target gift card and then go to Walmart and get her a $50 gift card too,” Littlewood says.
Morris and Littlewood wrapped the gifts and made an unplanned return visit to Smith’s apartment early Monday morning – Christmas Eve. The boy opened his presents and posed with the officers for a photo – grinning ear to ear. Smith then opened her gifts.
“I’ve been so overwhelmed today. I’m kind of in shock right now with what they did,” Smith says. “I am just so incredibly thankful because he definitely deserves it.”
The officers know they didn’t have to go the extra mile to provide gifts for the boy and Smith, but they say that’s what Christmas is all about.
“He’s a nice, smiley kid who is in a bad situation. He’s a deserving kid who should be given something for Christmas. If anybody deserves it, it’s him,” Littlewood says.
Smith has told the boy that when he wakes up Christmas morning, he will be “surrounded by love” and says that having him with her family this holiday is the best Christmas present they could ask for.
“It’s about giving and just knowing that we can give a nice home and make him happy. He’s been a huge blessing to me and my kids. He’s so positive and thoughtful. We have each other and that’s a huge blessing for all of us.”