For the families of Fairfield, Santa Claus comes to town a little earlier than usual, thanks to the Fairfield Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation and Fairfield’s Firefighters Association.
On Dec. 9, 10 and 11, the 18th Annual Fairfield Firefighters Charitable Santa Express will travel across Fairfield to bring the Christmas spirit to many families. During this magical weekend, Santa Claus and his helpers visit houses with the Fairfield firefighters to take photos and deliver presents to the families involved.
“We started out 18 years ago with six families, one night,” said Robert Smith, Fairfield Fire Lieutenant and the Charitable Foundation’s president. “Now, we are up to over 200 stops that we are trying to schedule over the course of the weekend.”
In addition to spreading Christmas cheer, the Santa Express was created to help fundraise money for charities, starting with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. After seeing the firefighters in Norwalk partaking in a similar event, the Fairfield Fire Department looked to bring Santa to the Fairfield community.
Today, the Fairfield Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation collects a $25 donation per child at each stop to raise money for The Tommy Fund for Childhood Cancer, a non-profit organization out of the Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale-New Haven.
Created in 1953 to honor Tommy Mozdzierz, a young boy who passed from acute leukemia, The Tommy Fund partnered with the New Britain firefighters to generate awareness and fundraise money to support the emotional and medical needs of children with cancer and their families.
“We try to do whatever we can based on the needs of the families during the most crucial time of their lives,” said Rebecca Santoli, the Executive Director of the Tommy Fund.
“Our roots began with the fire department and to this day, we are back connecting with that community and a commendable group of fire people,” she said. “It truly came full circle.”
The Fairfield Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation became associated with the Tommy Fund through Charlie Capalbo, a late friend of the firefighters who received treatment at the Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale-New Haven. The firefighters met the Capalbos before Charlie’s battle with cancer due to a house fire, sparking a friendship between the firehouse and the family.
When remembering Charlie, Smith spoke highly about his inspiring personality.
“No matter how he was feeling, no matter how beat his body was, he would always try to put on a good face for you,” said Smith. “His never quit attitude was inspiring to us.”
The Capalbo’s relationship between the Fairfield Fire Department and The Tommy Fund has established a connection for the two organizations to create bigger change for families in need.
Over the past six years, the Fairfield Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation has raised around $130,000 to $140,000 for The Tommy Fund. In 2021, The Santa Express raised over $32,500 for the Tommy Fund.
For the firefighters, this event allows them to give back to their community and creates a personal connection between themselves and various Fairfield families.
“As firefighters, we’re not just a part of the community,” said Jeff Pinckney, a Fire Lieutenant with the Fairfield Fire Department. “With so many families, we have become a part of their holiday traditions.”
As the firefighters gear up for the weekend, Santoli expresses her gratitude for the department’s impact on the Tommy Fund.
“It is a huge undertaking these dedicated firemen are doing for us; it does not just happen the day of,” said Santoli. “Thank you to the firemen and Mr. Smith’s leadership to this endeavor. We would not be where we are today and help as many families as we have without them.”
For more information on The Tommy Fund for Childhood Cancer, refer to their website: https://tommyfund.org/.