NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Serious childhood illnesses can be devastating at any time of year. They take their toll on families, emotionally and financially. Christmastime can be especially hard.

That's why the North Port Police Department and Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, along with community businesses started up Operation Santa Surprise, a program designed to brighten the holidays for families facing difficult times.


Michael Retz is 10 years old. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had surgery and is now going through radiation.

Enter Operation Santa Surprise. A crew of people showed up at his house with plenty of gifts to brighten the family's Christmas.

“It was coo, all those cars and stuff, and how many people they were actually able to fit in there with all the presents,” said Michael.

“It reduces the stress,” said Officer Joe Fussell with the North Port Police Department. “They can focus on getting better. They can focus on healing. They can focus on their time together a family.”

If you'd like to help Michael and his family in their cancer fight, there is a GoFundMe account where you can donate.


Fourteen-year old Niko Conley was like any other teen. He loved basketball and video games. He began feeling sick in September of 2017. That's when his family learned he had leukemia.

“It's terrible,” said Christina Conley. “It's your kid.”

“You don't know what to think,” said Stephen Conley, recalling when he got the news.

His family also got a visit from Operation Secret Santa, with plenty of presents.

“Cancer has touched each one of us, myself included,” said Officer Fussell.

The presents came in by the truckload to help make this a holiday to remember for Niko and his family.

“This is amazing,” said Niko. “Absolutely amazing.”

If you'd like to help Niko's family, there's a GoFundMe account set up.

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.

Have a news tip? Email, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.