Calgary Firefighters mark 50 years of gift giving at the Stampede Corral
Over 4,000 children received toys and got to meet with Santa on Sunday
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You wouldn't think it to look at them, but the Calgary Fire Department is home to some of Santa's very own elves.
Normally tasked with protecting Calgarians, they also managed to save Christmas – or at least make the holidays a little brighter – for more than 4,000 underprivileged kids this weekend.
The Calgary Firefighters Toy Association held its annual children's Christmas party on Sunday, Dec. 17, marking the 50th anniversary of the event at the Stampede Corral.
1,873 families and 4,200 children were in attendance, according to association president, Jamie Blayney; the most he has seen in the ten years he has held the position.
Families who might need a hand up at Christmas are referred to the association through the Salvation Army and both Calgary school boards. Firefighters donate a portion of each paycheque towards purchasing new toys, and more than 200 volunteers work to put on the party each year.
This year, those in attendance were treated to performances by the Spruce Meadows Prairie Dogs, Tao of Peace Martial Arts and the Cappy Smart Band.
And of course, no Christmas party would be complete without a visit from the man in red, Santa Claus himself, who traded in his sleigh for a ride in "Maggie," Calgary's original mechanical aerial ladder truck, first introduced to the fire department in 1929.
"I swear, this is the best year I've ever come," said Angel Kenney after receiving a brand new art set. Kenney, 12, has been attending the party with her family since she was in the first grade.
"This goes back in history a long way from when the Calgary firefighters used to fix up old toys, and paint old toys to give back to kids," said Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth.
"It's an amazing experience to be able to see these families who perhaps don't have the opportunity to have a Christmas party, or to get a gift, or meet with Santa. To be able to do that today all because of the yearlong work the firefighters do and the money they raise - I'm very proud of our people."
Individuals interested in donating new toys for next year's party can do so at any Calgary fire hall throughout the year, or by contacting the Fire Department Toy Association directly.