Santa makes a stop in Shelton

Santa Claus took his annual ride into Shelton this past weekend, but this year in blazing style. White Hills Fire Company drove Santa on top a fire engine through the White Hills neighborhood on Nov. 10 to collect toys for the Toys4Kids program sponsored by TEAM, Inc. Volunteer firefighters threw popcorn balls to children as toys were collected from White Hills residents. The toys will be given to needy children in the Lower Naugatuck Valley.

In the morning Santa road through upper White Hills. About half a dozen families gathered in a group in a neighborhood called the Maples to greet him and give him toys. He rode on the engine from 9 a.m. to noon, resting for lunch. Forgoing cookies and milk, Santa stopped for pizza at the fire station.

“After Santa feeds his reindeer pizza, he’s going to head out again, “Saint Nick said. “And with a little Christmas magic, it’s going to seem like he is in two places at the same time.”

Children from all over the neighborhood anticipate Santa’s ride around town. West Hills Fire Captain Kevin McCrue commented on the event, recalling the fun he had as a child.

“It’s a fantastic event; we’ve been doing this for years,” McCue said. “I remember seeing the fire company come by when I was a kid, and it’s awesome to be a part of it and to be throwing popcorn balls on top of it.”

Firefighter Mike Kellett currently coordinates the Santa ride and toy drive. He said the fire department started taking Santa around the West Hills neighborhood during the 1960’s. They started collecting toys years later for an organization located in Bridgeport. However, in the recent years, the fire company started collecting the toys for TEAM during their Toys4Kids drive.

By noon the team had collected several hundred toys from West Hills residents, said Fire Marshal James Tortora. He, Deputy Fire Marshall Bobby Albert, Alderman John Jack Finn and other volunteers were Santa’s helpers for the day, loading toys in two pickup trucks following the fire engine.

The Shelton Herald was invited to watch as Santa continued his ride around West Hills for more toys, after he finished his pizza.

Wiping sauce from his beard and gathering up his team, he mounted the fire engine. The siren roared and lights flashed as Santa rode down the street on top the red fire truck decorated with a Christmas wreath. He waved at residents and was greeted by parents with unwrapped gifts, while their children ran out to catch popcorn balls thrown by firefighters.

The engine continued roaring down the streets, turning corners announcing Santa’s arrival. One mother stopped to wave hello with her child. Santa and the team would continue their trip for three more hours until 4 p.m., gathering toys.

The team pulled over to pick up a bicycle. Erin Fitzgerald gave the fire company a bike from herself and her parents, Joe and Melissa Fitzgerald. Santa and the West Hills Fire Company rode on as Fitzgerald commented on her experience as a child.

“Ever since I was really little we got really excited for it; we always made sure we were home the day of it, so we can dive and get the popcorn balls, with mud stains on our jeans every Christmas, diving for the popcorn balls.”

Kellett said later that the fire company collected a total of three trucks of toys. He sent a statement from Santa himself and the West Hills Fire Company to extend their gratitude to West Hills residents who generously donated gifts this season.

“Thank you from Santa and his smoke eating elves! To our friends and neighbors in the White Hills of Shelton. Your generosity was overwhelming during the Annual White Hills Tree Lighting and Santa’s ride through The Hill. Santa’s visit to The White Hills of Shelton on a fire truck was made in conjunction with the Fire Company’s Toys 4 Kids Drive this past weekend. With everyone’s help we were able to collect over 3 full pickup truck loads of toys. On nearly every street in the White Hills, there was someone waiting with a toy to share with less fortunate families. These toys will now be given to the TEAM Inc. Toys 4 Kids. We hope that you and your families have a safe and joy filled holiday season.”