|Article Last Updated: 12/23/2005 12:15 PM|
|Firefighters' gifts a boost to kids, families|
|AARON LEO email@example.com|
|It was a special delivery, firefighter style. Amani Young and Mia Cohen were on the floor of their Center Street apartment playing Uno Wednesday night, when firefighters from Engine Co. 1 arrived at their home laden with boxes of food and armloads of gifts.|
The startled brother and sister dropped their cards and jumped up onto the couch.
"We've got some goodies for you," firefighter Tim Landock told the wide-eyed youngsters.
The children's family was one of 17 that local firefighters lent a helping hand, full of holiday cheer. In the past two Christmas seasons, city firefighters from 14 companies and two battalion chiefs have delivered toys and food to families chosen by school and social service officials.
Sixty-one children were gift recipients in this year's Firefighters Christmas Families program, according to firefighter Roberto "Bo" Diaz, whose daughter, Hailey, 9, inspired him to organize the program. She helped pack this year's deliveries.
Diaz conceived the idea several weeks after hearing about charity work that Hailey's Brownie troop was doing.
Ten-year-old Amani was chosen as one of this year's recipients because he has an inoperable brain tumor. It is shrinking, thanks to chemotherapy sessions he receives every Tuesday at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said his great-grandmother, Henrietta Sebourne.
The energetic boy turned to his grandmother as the firefighters piled presents in front of him and his 8-year-old sister.
"Can I open it?" he asked. When she nodded yes, Amani shouted, "Thank you!"
After tearing off the wrapping paper, the youngster found an X-Men trading card game and classic video games he can play on the television.
But Amani's most sincere wish is "to have a nice Christmas and spend it with my family," he said.
Meanwhile, he admitted, he would also like a portable DVD player or a PlayStation 2 video game system.
He just returned to school this week after a long absence for treatment of his illness, said his great-uncle, Esteban Sebourne.
The firefighters' help was greatly appreciated by the family.
"It's wonderful," Esteban Sebourne said. "The fire and police departments are very supportive of the youth."
Bill Kaufman, the owner of Plaza Beef and Provisions on Harral Avenue, donated money and meat for the family. Parr, participating in the program for the first year, also stored some items for the family before the big day.
Others helped by this year's Firefighters Christmas Families included a family living in a Shelton hotel after a fire destroyed their home, two children with cerebral palsy and several very large families.