Santa Rosa police give out more than a thousand Halloween costumes to fire-stressed kids

The Santa Rosa Police Department worked for more than a week to collect new Halloween costumes for children affected by the fires.|

Santa Rosa police handed out free Halloween costumes to at least a thousand children Friday, many of whom had lost their homes in devastating Sonoma County fires.

Riley Nowlin, 8, looked through costumes piled on a table in the gymnasium at the Santa Rosa Christian Church. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit was laid out in front of Nowlin, but there was a problem: It was Rafael, and his favorite ninja turtle is Leonardo.

His mother, Amanda Nowlin, pushed aside a pirate costume and found Leonardo, the ninja turtle with the blue headband, in just her son’s size. His eyes lit up, but then he got distracted by Batman costumes on hangers 10 feet away, which made the decision difficult.

Riley pointed out that he did have swords at home to go with the Leonardo outfit, but his mother corrected him. He used to have swords, she said, but they were lost along with nearly all their other possessions when the Tubbs fire leveled the Nowlins’ Coffey Park home.

“That happens a lot,” Amanda Nowlin said. “We say we have something, but then we remember that we don’t anymore.”

She sighed and smiled, saying it’s going to get better - it has to. With schools reopening and daily routines soon to return, Nowlin remained hopeful.

Many other families picked up costumes in the gymnasium Friday afternoon. Girl Scouts handed out candy to everyone who walked in, and police and firefighters mingled with the children.

Riley’s dilemma, having to choose a costume when there were so many to choose from, was just what Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Summer Black had hoped for.

“We have every costume a kid would want to have,” Black said.

The Santa Rosa Police Department worked for more than a week to collect new Halloween costumes for children affected by the fires that swept through Sonoma County.

The costumes were donated from all over the state, Black said. Just Friday morning, the police department received an additional 35 boxes of Halloween outfits for the event, she said.

For parents like Nowlin, the costume giveaway was a welcome break from coping with loss.

“This helps make it normal when nothing’s normal right now,” Nowlin said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or

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