SARASOTA Honoring a decades-old tradition, Bradenton firefighters traded in their jackets and fire helmets for Santa hats to bring Christmas to a group of special needs adults.
On Thursday, firefighters passed out gifts to more than 200 special needs adults living at The Haven in Sarasota.
“They actually give individual presents to every single person, so every single person has their name on something, and so it’s all about what that person wants,” said Haven president Brad Jones.
Whether it was bouncy balls or some new Tampa Bay Rays athletic gear, the residents said Santa gets it right for pretty much everyone.
The tradition sprang years ago from the father of a Haven resident. The idea was to provide for these people who may not have a Christmas otherwise.
That man has since passed away, but his son Alfred still is a resident at the Haven. Alfred told us he was proud of his dad.
“He liked to fight fires, save people’s lives,” said Alfred.
As he has a special place in this particular Christmas tradition, members of the Fire Department and everyone at Haven enjoy giving Alfred a little bit of a hard time when presents are passed out.
“All my friends are sitting here today, they say ‘Has Alfred been good this year?” And then they say, ‘no, not this year,’” said Alfred. “They always tease me but I get a present anyway.”
After almost two hours of gift giving, 300 presents were handed out. The event was completely funded by the Bradenton Firefighters Association.