With a van nearly bursting with gifts, artificial Christmas trees, ornaments, stockings, and more, Anaheim Fire & Rescue firefighters headed into the city to surprise four deserving families.
“This is the Christmas spirit,” Fire Captain Chris Valente said. “The department can give back to kids that might not be as fortunate.”
The firefighters carried the heavy bags of toys, the 6-foot tree, and the rest of the goodies up to the Palagio family’s second-floor apartment.
Avigail Palagio opened the door to a chorus of “Merry Christmas” from two Anaheim Fire & Rescue firefighters, an engineer, and a fire captain, as well as several Anaheim Fire & Rescue cadets and Community Engagement Manager Natali Rudometkin.
“Your family was chosen because you are doing well in school,” Rudometkin told Saul, 9, Hector, 8, and Joshua, 5. “Keep doing a good job and good things will keep coming your way.”
The boys jumped around the room in excitement and touched all the firefighters’ badges. They were so eager to open the gifts — all donated by Walmart Supercenter in the Anaheim Plaza — that they ignored their mother’s warnings to keep the gift bags closed until Christmas morning.
With a big smile, Joshua grabbed a basketball from his brother.
“We really appreciate it,” Palagio said. “We’re very happy we got this amazing gift.”
The families were chosen by Anaheim Elementary School District and by an apartment manager who reached out to Anaheim Fire & Rescue seeking ways to help two tenants.
At the Saldana Ponce family’s apartment, 8-year-old Carlos Ruben spotted the fire truck first. He led the team to meet his mother, 17-year-old sister, and 15-year-old brother for the gift delivery.
“I love giving,” Valente said. “You can see their faces, they light up. It’s pretty rewarding.”
At the next home, 4-year-old Evy Ulloa received a special present: a kitchen set and shopping cart, wrapped in shiny green paper and ribbon to be opened on Christmas.
“I’m kind of in shock,” said Isaura Ulloa, 19, who planned to set up the tree and holiday decorations with her three siblings as a surprise for her mother, who was at work when Anaheim Fire & Rescue arrived.
At the Rocha-Hernandez home in the same apartment complex, twins Nevaeh and Savannah, both 8, were jumping around in excitement when the firefighters arrived. They were thrilled at the plastic fire hats, stickers, and of course the bags of toys and holiday décor.
“I’m very happy, and grateful,” Melissa Rocha said as she led her shy 3-year-old son Xavier down to check out the fire engine.
“I’ve never been in a fire truck. This is awesome!” exclaimed Nevaeh. “I was really waiting for a Christmas tree. My favorite thing about Christmas is spending time with my family and having a nice time.”