WARREN — It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Meijer store at 12 Mile and Mound roads the evening of Dec. 3.
That’s because a group of Warren Fire Department firefighters played Santa Claus to 15 Carlson Elementary School children during the annual Christmas With A Firefighter.
Each child received a $100 Meijer gift card to shop with a firefighter, who followed in merry measure, making sure the students stayed within their budgets. The students picked out whatever they wanted, most of them immediatley hitting the toy aisles.
The children filled out wish lists ahead of time. Their purchases were tax-exempt, and their spirits were high. Carlson is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.
Christmas with a Firefighter has been a tradition for several years. Meijer provides the gift cards, and members of the WFD are paired up with a child to do some serious shopping.
When Warren firefighter Jim Hill saw events like this in other communities, he wanted to bring in something similar for the children of Warren. He applied for a grant with Meijer, and that got the ball rolling. School personnel selected students who could use a little extra for the program.
“It’s just something that makes you feel good as we head into the holiday season,” Hill said. “It’s one of the fun things to do in the city. It’s a great time of year to be doing some of the giving. Every year, we get a mixed bag of kids.”
Fourth-grader Shanya Jones had an extra reason to celebrate — Christmas With A Firefighter fell on her 10th birthday. She quickly dashed through the store with fireman Chris Andary. Together, they checked out an Easy Bake Oven, board games and more.
“I’m following you, Shanya,” Andary said. “If you want to try board games, we’ve got to go this way.”
In another aisle, as seasonal music played, Lt. Orrin Ferguson and third-grader Tiffany Wiley checked out the Barbie dolls. Wiley also picked out a pair of boots and decorative tape while keeping in mind her budget. Not far away, Wiley’s brother, first-grader Jonathan Wiley, made the most of his gift card.
“It’s a blast. I love it,” their mom, Amy Poe, said. “It helps a lot knowing that I’m a single mom.”
Sisters Shelby and Sadie Heman shopped until they dropped. Monster High dolls were tops on their wish lists. They eash also selected one Barbie doll for the Toys for Tots Foundation, which benefits other children.
“We just wanted to help out,” Shelby Heman said.
“We know it’s Christmas, but a lot of kids don’t have toys for Christmas,” said third-grader Sadie Heman, who shopped with fireman Mitch DeCook.
“My dad was in an orphanage,” their father, Keith Heman, said. “We’re a little more fortunate than other people.”
Fifth-grader Shelby Heman said she was “very excited” whe she heard she was selected for Christmas With A Firefighter.
“I almost fainted. I was too excited,” she said. “It was exciting and fun. It’s like you can buy everything.”
“Shelby was quite the little shopper. She had a plan, and she stuck to it,” firefighter Anthony Salajka said. “It was great. It’a always a good time to help around the city.”
One stocking stuffer for Sadie Heman was a Sketch Pad.
“I love drawing,” she said. “I love to draw people.”
“This was wonderful,” their mom, Linda Heman, said. “This was just amazing.”
Several kids showed their appreciation by making thank-you cards for the firefighters. Salajka was going to frame his.
The WFD planned to take another group of Warren children shopping at Meijer after press time.