When Veronica asked me to share one of our holiday traditions, I thought about all the fun things our family does around the holidays. I thought I could share our tree expedition day where I walk around at least two tree lots with my 12 foot pole (to make sure I get a tree that is not too big or too little to fit our 12 foot ceilings), our christmas cookie baking day where we try out different recipes but always go back to my great-grandmothers secret recipe, or our christmas day traditions of always opening gifts and playing games and listening to christmas music. All of those are fun traditions that I look forward to every year, but I wanted to write about something a little different, a little more unique, and a little closer to the real meaning of christmas.
One of my favorite traditions is a tradition that my Husband and I share with our Fire Department family. My husband Dan is a full-time firefighter/paramedic and has been part of the same department for 11 years. Throughout the holiday season, families who can't afford to buy their children gifts for christmas come down to the station and fill out paperwork to be part of the Toy and Joy program. Once they have filled out paperwork, members of the department check the families and verify that all of the names and ages of the children are correct. Their names get imputed into a system and they cards are created with all of their information on them. This helps with knowing how many toys to purchase, who to wrap gifts for, and how to deliver the toys.
Starting right after thanksgiving, a group of us pick a Tuesday night and all meet at a local store to get our assignments. Current members, past chiefs, and family members all spend a couple hours picking out hundreds of toys for children ages newborn to 17. Dozens of carts are filled and shelves are emptied as we purchase hundreds of dollars worth of toys, books, and gifts. We gather coupons, have gift card donations from the employees, and pick certain nights to get the most discounts possible. From baby dolls to transformers, bottles, to basketballs, our carts and hearts are filled with the fun memories of childhood and what gifts kids would want to open on christmas morning.
The group who bought all the gifts!
Look at that receipt!
You can see how long the receipt is!
After we have purchased and received all the toys and have them organized by gender and age group, we are ready to wrap. Three to four nights a week during the entire month of December we all gather down at the station and wrap presents for the families. Its fun to pick out different toys and games to wrap for these children and imagine how excited they will be christmas morning to open them. Just think, if we didn't wrap gifts for these children, there are some who wouldn't have anything to open on Christmas morning.
Dan trying out one of the donated bikes!
All the bikes, waiting to be delivered!
When I married a firefighter, I didn't just marry in to his immediate family, I got an entire fire department family as well. When I think about the different traditions our family has, some of my favorite ones are the ones we share with our family at the fire department. Not only do our firefighters share a bond, but all of their loved ones do as well. I am so thankful for the support, love, and traditions we all share during the holidays and all year long. I encourage you to find a local program like our Toy and Joy program this holiday season, and donate a toy or your time to help make a child's christmas morning better! I can honestly say, it will be one of the highlights of your holidays!