|Posted by Anne Siren on December 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM|
Pompano Beach – Firefighters usually see the children at Broward Children’s Center when they respond to a medical emergency. But last Friday, instead of bringing a child to the hospital they brought Christmas toys to the children.
Helping the firefighters, some in uniform and three dressed as clowns, was Santa Claus – arriving on a vintage fire truck.
“It’s very heartfelt to us because we run a lot of calls here. It means a lot for us to see them smiling one day out of the year,” said Firefighter Samantha Eslie.
Founded in 1971, the non-profit Broward Children’s Center specializes in housing and helping infants, children, and young adults with mental, developmental and physical disabilities.
Delivering toys to the Broward Children’s Center is a Christmas tradition started over 30 years ago with one toy delivered to one child by now retired firefighter Hank Taylor. “We’d come here in horrible times, and it just took,” said Lt. Bob McCarthy.
That first child is still under the care of Broward Children’s Center.
“We don’t want this to be their forever home, but sometimes that is the case,” said Bridgette DeSeno, spokeswoman for Broward Children’s Center. “But we’ve had some great stories of kids being adopted.”
This year’s haul included more toys for more kids. “We shopped for 55 kids,” said Eslie, who estimated about 150 toys were given out.
Sandra King, fire department spokesperson said that all toys purchased were paid for by fire fighters personally.
Gifts are coordinated through Broward Children’s Center. Usually the need of the child is foremost. In the past, fire fighters brought a large-screen television and a “choo-choo train that runs throughout the center on its tracks.
Eslie, who organizes the event with Firefighter Petra Arnieri, said the pair took over a few years ago. “It’s kind of been passed down [from firefighter to firefighter]. We start organizing in October.”
“They’re a very generous group,” said Debbie Thompson, social worker at Broward Children’s Center. “They support us all year in various events.”
And the children remember the generosity of the firefighters every year.
“The kids start talking about it a few months before it even gets here,” said Thompson. “It means as much [to them] as it does to the firefighters.”
Another trip in sight
These fire-fighting Santas will still be packing gifts for children in Pompano Beach, and this time the public is asked to help out.
“On Christmas Day,” said King. “The fire-fighters will take gifts to over 100 families in the city. To donate an unwrapped gift, visit any fire station in the city or leave toys at city hall. Call 954-786-4601 for more information.