Firefighters Play Santa's Helper
OCALA- Firefighters are used to responding to emergencies that usually develop quite suddenly. There are other emergencies that can take a long time to develop, like poverty.
So a group of firefighters naturally responded to a call for help. On Monday morning several Ocala firefighters played Santa’s helper to 20 underprivileged children.
Nine- year -old Caleb Dippon of Ocala is one of the lucky children who went Christmas shopping with a firefighter.
"I’ve never done this before," said Caleb.
Caleb and his firefighter Macky McCadden made their way around Walmart in search of every item on Caleb’s wish list.
"I am going to get like Legos, bike lights and animal guide books like snakes," said Caleb.
Caleb and about 19 other students from Wyomina Elementary were chosen to be part of "Cathy’s Kids." The event was created more than a decade ago by Captain Cathy Fender.
She passed away a couple of years ago, but Fender's spirit lives on through this annual event.
"She once said that one day the kids may not remember what they bought here, but they will certainly remember the experience they had here," said Fender’s son Justin Fender.
It’s an experience that makes a world of difference to these needy children and to the Ocala firefighters.
"It's just so much fun just to watch the kids have a blast and run through the store and find stuff they want. It’s amazing every year they always want to get something for their family," said Capt. Anthony Ortiz.
Eight –year- old Dylan Martin picked out books for his sibling.
"I wanted to read them to my baby sister," said Dylan.
Each child got a $95 gift card from sponsors and the firefighters pay for the rest out of their own pocket.
"It’s a lot of fun to see them go home and have all the toys and presents for the family and for themselves,” said Captain Richie Lietz.
While Monday was Christmas day for these 20 children, there are still 2600 homeless children in Marion County.
"I guess the most important part of this is that we need other people to step up and be Santa’s helpers and make sure that some of these other children will also have the fun opportunity,” said Suzanne McGuire who is the Homeless Liaison in Marion County.
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