Natasha Nino couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw Santa Claus and his helpers step down from the fire engine Friday morning.
“Santa Claus came through. It’s amazing,” Nino said.
Nino and her two children, Crystal, 12, and Nathan, 5, were one of eight families — seven from Greeley and one from Evans — who received gifts from Santa Claus a couple of days before Christmas.
For more than a decade, the Greeley Fire Department has held a toy drive where firefighters and community members donate gifts and money, and then coordinate with the Greeley Transitional House to get names of families who are in need of Christmas presents. The fire engine from the Greeley Firefighters Local 888 union drove Santa Claus and some helpers around to the houses, and other Greeley firefighters and their families helped deliver the gifts.
Nino didn’t know how she could have afforded Christmas this season.
“We didn’t have the finances this year to do that,” Nino said. “We moved from Miami about two years ago, and I’ve never experienced anything like this.”
Crystal and her brother were excited to see all the wrapped presents.
“It’s really neat because me and my family never had this,” Crystal said. “It’s something special to us. It means a lot to us. It’s really sweet.”
Beth Sasse’s three boys — Alex, Brady and Chandler — had no idea that Santa Claus would visit them before Christmas.
“This is so special. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but things like this are just going to make this so special for them ... good memories to hopefully overshadow the bad memories,” said Sasse, who lost her possessions in a house fire three weeks ago. “I’m so grateful for the support, and it’s just really cool that they thought of my kids after all this happened. After the house fire, somebody from the fire department contacted me and said they wanted to do this for the boys.”
Alex, 10, said it was exciting to see Santa and all the presents.
“I don’t think we ever had this many presents before our house burned down,” Alex said.
Brady, 8, agreed with his older brother.
“I think it’s cool that everyone took time from their day to come here,” Brady said. “We never had this many presents before.”
Greeley firefighter Mike Medhurst, the coordinator of the event, said about 40 people (infants to adults) received gifts this year.
“We’re giving back to people that are less fortunate this time of year,” Medhurst said. “It’s a tradition. It’s something we’re proud of and we own.”
Station 3 engineer Doyle Schaeffer, who is the Local 888 union president, enjoys seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces.
“When the kids see Santa Claus they light up, and their eyes get as big as saucers,” Schaeffer said. “Just to be able to help them out means the world to us.”