WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The White Plains Fire Department has been busy assembling and fitting sleds for developmentally disabled children at the John A. Coleman School in White Plains.
The department's four crews split the $500 firefighters raises for the school at their annual picnic and began constructing holiday and firefighting-related sleds. The four sleighs will be given to the school when the department dons Santa Claus, Rudolph, Winnie the Pooh, and Elf costumes and hops on a fire truck for its annual Santa Express tour this Wednesday.
"Instead of the money going towards a cash donation, we called the Coleman center and asked what they needed and they said sleds," Deputy Chief Richard Houlihan said while explaining last year the school acquired two sleds. "The parents and the kids were crying because they'd never been on sleds before."
An informal contest between the crews has elicited a sled lined with spare metal plating from a fire truck and side lights, an American flag-colored sleigh with a eagle statue, and a sleigh decked out with a holiday wreath and blinking lights. The fourth team hid it's sled from competitors as the sleigh outfitting continues.
For more than 30 years, the department's Santa Express has brought presents, chocolate and cheer to elementary schools, senior centers, the Dickstein Cancer Treatment Center, and the Coleman school.
"It's rewarding for us. We get way more than we give back in smiles that they give us," said Houlihan, a Yonkers resident who has worked in the department for 30 years. "A lot of these kids can't see or may not have limbs and you'll see them smile for the first time when Santa's beard brushes their face."
The department will be collecting new stuffed animals to give away as presents through Dec. 14. Donations can be brought to the fire department's headquarters at 219 Mamaroneck Ave.
Target, WalMart, Macy's, and Mack-Cali Realty will help the department run its Santa Express this year.
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