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December 10, 2012

Christmas With A Firefighter brings ‘season’s greetings’

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — Several Carlson and Kennedy elementary school students will have a “holly jolly Christmas” this year.

Through a collaboration with the Meijer store at 12 Mile and Mound and the Warren Fire Department, 25 Van Dyke Public Schools students went on a shopping spree last week with a firefighter in the department’s “Christmas With A Firefighter” program. The children’s families also came out for the event, as did several educators.

Each student received a $100 Meijer gift card and was paired up with a personal firefighter who helped them shop and stay within their budgets. Remote control vehicles and Barbie merchandise were among the popular gifts.

Children were selected for the annual program based on family need. After discovering that other communities were offering such a program, firefighter Jim Hill thought, “Why not us?” So six years ago, the tradition of Christmas With A Firefighter in Warren was created, with Meijer providing the gift cards and the WFD lining up the shopping buddies.

“This is our sixth year with Meijer,” Hill said. “We have a lot of needy kids in our city. Why not get this going for our kids?”

This year, Meijer donated 25 $100 gift cards. Fifteen Carlson students jingled all the way through the store Dec. 4, and on the following night, it was time for 10 Kennedy students to dash through the store.  

“They were elated. They were so happy just to be chosen in the first place,” Hill said. “They were very excited to have the opportunity to get some Christmas gifts.”

“They were so excited and smiling,” Kennedy Principal Melissa Pluszczynski said. “It was incredible to see the joy in their faces and the parents’, too.”

While toys seemed to be on everyone’s wish list, “Some of the kids were buying necessities, also,” Hill said. “Some of the kids bought pants, gloves, boots. Some bought for their brothers and sisters.”

“I felt excited,” Kennedy third-grader Curtis Outley said, adding that his firefighter was “awesome.” “He went looking in a different aisle and I went looking in a different aisle. He found awesome stuff. I found awesome stuff at the same time. His aisle was better. He found more awesome stuff.”

Shoes, pants, shirts and a Transformer were among the items Outley placed in his shopping basket. He also made sure to pick out one gift for each of his two sisters, but they have to wait for Christmas morning to unwrap them.

Sisters Mykiela Robinson and Daliesa Robinson checked their lists twice.   

“It’s so spectacular and amazing,” Daliesa, a fifth-grader, said. She admitted to enjoying the attention she received while picking out her stocking stuffers. “It felt basically good to have some eyes on me.”

She said her firefighter was really helpful at finding what she wanted.

“He was in aisles where there were dolls and stuff,” said Daliesa, who also “bought something for the house.”

“To get to go shopping with a firefighter, that was very, very nice,” fourth-grader Mykiela said. “I loved how the firefighter didn’t want to see me sad,” she said, explaining he gave her a bit of extra money when she went over her credit limit.

“He helped me when I was stuck in one aisle with all the dolls,” she said. “In another aisle, he found a make-up purse and bags and that’s what I wanted. He said, ‘Hey can you come here for a minute?’ I went there. I saw a lot of stuff I wanted.”

While shopping for herself, Mykiela got into the spirit of Santa Claus for a moment when she also found the perfect gift for her family.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.