Each holiday season, a group of New York firefighters travel to the Coast to spread Christmas cheer. The New York City Fire Department is all about giving back. Firefighter, Tom White, says it has a lot to do with helping others keep their spirits up during tragedy. White says, "We had 9-11 and the whole country came and helped us and supported us. Anytime I can come and do something like this, it's a payback.” Each year since Katrina, the firefighters have made their way to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tom O’Conner, a retired Fire Lieutenant, says, "We came down after Katrina and we were delivering vital supplies to the region and it evolved into a toy distribution. In December of '05, we dropped two truckloads of toys, and then the following year, we went back and it was just a tradition we kept going with." The firefighters also visit schools and teach kids about fire safety. White also says, "You can’t give them too much because they're so young, but you just give them the basics, which I can say they seem to know." Even though the firefighters were still recovering from Hurricane Sandy last year, they wouldn't miss the chance to visit the kids on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Theresa Fortenberry, the Circuit Manager for Nichols Head Start, says, "We thought they were going to cancel, but they came anyway and that was something amazing to us, for them to take out their time from New York to come down here after they suffered such a tragedy." This story might not have a happy ending however. Toy donations are down, and O'Connor says this year might be their last. He says, "Good things possibly have to come to an end, and this year, our donations are way down and we actually had to eliminate a distribution in the Harrison County, Gulfport area." O'Connor says this year's distribution couldn't have happened without the help of the Biloxi Fire Department. The firefighters will hold a toy distribution at the Biloxi Nativity School tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. All kids under the age of ten, accompanied by a parent, are welcome.