Family overwhelmed with gratitude after WISH Patrol stops by

WISH-TV's Surprise Squad helps family of eight with gifts from local companies. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It was one of the hardest decisions of her life. An Indianapolis mom of seven decided to leave the life she knew behind to protect her children. It was a tough choice that put them in even tougher circumstances. She quickly learned though that sometimes miracles come when you least expect them.

24-Hour News 8’s Brooke Martin first met Tamika Peterson in mid-November. Her apartment was noticeably void of furniture but overflowing with something much more valuable. To understand their love and appreciation for even the most modest dwelling you have to go back four years.

“He got that gun, he already had it out and he shot. The bullet went so close near me, it shot out my back car window,” explained Peterson.

For Peterson, it was the last straw. She was drowning in an abusive relationship with someone she was dating. For her children, she knew she had to take a leap of faith and leave.

“What do you do? Do you give up having somewhere to go,” asked Peterson.

Peterson did just that. She took her kids and clothing on their backs and was gone.

“We slept in a car, we slept anywhere and when I say anywhere, I do mean anywhere,” described Peterson.

Certain businesses allowed the family to come in before opening to wash the kids for school. Restaurants gave the family leftovers.

“It was the lowest point because you feel like you don’t have nowhere to help you out or it’s like what do you do? It’s like what do you do? As a mother, you already feel like a failure because you’re packing your kids up and you’re taking them from house to house,” Peterson described as she wiped away tears.

Soon after, a chance meeting happened. After a generous landlord approved Peterson’s rental application, the seven siblings moved into a two bedroom apartment on the east side. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Candy Perry patrols the complex. Her first meeting with the family left quite an impression.

“It was amazing to see that they had practically nothing and her heart was just golden and looking above at the future. [She is] raising her children with their heads high acting like they were living on the best of the land. It just really touched by my heart,” explained Officer Perry.

Community policing is something IMPD takes pride in. One morning, Officer Perry and her partner Officer Diaz brought the family breakfast. Both officers sat on the floor with the family, bonding over food and sharing stories of their day-to-day life.

Then Officer Perry reached out to 24-Hour News 8 about the Peterson family. That’s when the WISH Patrol jumped in to help make this a Christmas the family wouldn’t forget with the help of a few businesses.

On a cold December afternoon, 24-Hour News 8 visited Peterson’s house to learn more of her everyday challenges. While there, there was a knock on the door. On the other side, was Santa Claus. Santa had a handful of gifts to give to the kids. It didn’t stop there though. A few minutes later, another knock came. It was a team from Kroger, with gift cards in hand. That $500 gift card will help stock their fridge for days. It wasn’t just gift cards. They also had gift baskets, full of games to keep the kids busy.

Goodwill stopped by to make sure the clothing necessities were covered. They generously donated gift cards for the family to stop by a Goodwill store and help fill their closets.

Just when Peterson thought the surprises were coming to a close, came the biggest surprise of all. Jeff Godby from Godby Furniture came knocking. He had a whole crew with him ready to set up furniture for their bare apartment. First came a couch, then a cocktail table, kitchen table, beds and a dresser.

Before this day, the kids slept on air mattresses. Now, in one room are bunk beds. On this night, the kids couldn’t wait to go to bed.

“It’s the least we can do honestly. We heard about your situation and thought hey we can do something about that,” explained Godby as Peterson hugged him.

“That says a lot about you and your company because you did not have to do this,” said Peterson.

Her children couldn’t stop hugging and thanking Godby, the team from Kroger, Goodwill and members of the WISH-TV staff.

“To be a light in places many people consider dark, it reminds us that there are good people that no matter where we are in our beautiful city of Indianapolis, there are stars in those areas, like Tamika,” said Officer Perry.

We’d like to give a special thanks to some of our sponsors who helped make this happen. They include Goodwill, Kroger and Godby Furniture.

Is there someone you think the WISH Patrol should pay a visit? We’re gathering nominations. Fill out the form below and help us share their story.