MIDTOWN, Manhattan (PIX11) — It’s Thanksgiving week, and we all have something for which to be thankful, including the families of firefighters who lost their lives.
For them, the holiday season can be challenging without their loved ones around, but on Sunday, their union and the FDNY, along with FAO Schwarz, hosted the annual gift shopping spree for them, with new families having been added.
For the 43rd year, a ladder truck allowed children and other family members to ride up in its bucket with Santa. Dozens of children were given about $1,000 per family in gift cards to spend at FAO Schwarz and other stores. The event and the gifts were organized by the Uniformed Firefighters Association, or UFA, the firefighters’ union.
Penelope and Madelyn Martinez, two sisters in elementary school, talked about their favorite aspects of the event.
“That we got to see a lot of toys when we first walked in,” said Penelope.
Her sister raves about one of the items she bought.
“I got this little cute puppy,” she said about a stuffed animal she’d purchased. “I saw it on my Christmas list, and I really wanted it,” she continued, “but instead, I got it here.”
Andrea Barresi, the wife of a fallen firefighter, brought her children, Elliana and Carmine.
“It’s all about their smiles,” she said, pointing to her son and daughter, “and their happiness and their joy at seeing all these other children just getting to shop the store.”
Andrew Ansbro, the UFA president, mingled among the families and talked about why the union has made this a vital tradition.
“You can never replace what’s lost,” he said in an interview, “but you can always let them know that they’re never forgotten.”
It resonates with family members.
Darien Viviano is a sophomore in high school whose father was lost in the line of duty. He said that the event inaugurates the season while also acknowledging the sacrifices the families’ loved ones made.
“It’s wholesome to see them giving back to the community,” he said. “There’s not a lot of support, [generally], but this is really helpful to see.”
The families were also treated to a matinee performance by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.