WORTHINGTON - A teary-eyed motorist’s Christmas will likely be a little better than she’d imagined after a Thursday morning snowy traffic stop by a Worthington police officer.

Instead of getting a ticket for committing minor traffic violations, a stunned local resident received a Christmas card, cash and a merry Christmas wish from WPD Sgt. Brett Wiltrout before continuing to her destination.

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“We’re hopeful to hand out (the money) to people in need around this time,” Wiltrout said about the department’s first-ever Secret Santa event.

Thanks to an anonymous $500 donation, Wiltrout got to help Santa out for a day just in time for Christmas. He canvassed the streets of Worthington hopeful to stop people, such as the teary-eyed motorist, who could use a little boost this holiday season.

Among other recipients included a couple on their way to Nobles County Family Services.

A confused middle-aged man turned around and approached the squad car. His face slowly turned from confused to elated as Wiltrout doled out some cash.

“Are you kidding me? You’re serious,” he asked.  

The next recipient - a student driver in the middle of a driver’s instruction lesson - was no less confused. Wiltrout thanked her for being a good driver and handed over yet another cash Christmas gift. All smiles, she got out and gave him a hug.

Driver instructor Mark Woitalewicz said he’d never experienced anything similar during his years of teaching.

“What a blessing today,” he said.

Wiltrout said what was fun about the event was being able to help families like the teary-eyed motorist that, despite having a full-time job, is broke. The couple was on their way to Family Services and said they had not been able to put a single Christmas present under the tree for their kids this year, he added.

“At Christmas, they hopefully bring that cheer home and that’s what’s fun,” he said.

The future of the Secret Santa program at the WPD will likely depend on future donations, Wiltrout said.

“We’d love to do this every year,” he said.