CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The Eastern Prairie Fire Protection District may have had a good time giving out presents Tuesday, but it was hard to have a better time than the kids they were giving to.
“This is our favorite event of the year,” says Eastern Prairie Captain John Bell. “I know our residents really enjoy it.”
Tuesday was the 27th Annual Operation: Santa. They had hundreds of gifts that were all donated. The fire district was collecting all month for the occasion. Bell says his favorite part is seeing people’s reactions.
“Kids love to run up and give Santa a hug,” says Bell. “The parents shake our hands. We had a child just a little bit ago get a soccer ball and a few of the firefighters were kicking the ball around with him. It’s a nice time for us to interact with our residents.”
They began Christmas Eve at the hospital giving toys to kids who cannot spend the holiday at home. Then they rode through some of the neighborhoods they serve.
Eastern Prairie is made up of just 30 firefighters. They say all of them volunteered to help spread joy on Christmas Eve. Bell has been involved with the event for 15 years and he is hoping there are many more in his future.
“I’m very blessed to be part of this organization and I know the other firefighters feel the same way,” says Bell. “We just like to help our community.”
The Eastern Prairie Fire Protection District has been around since 1962. They serve around 10,000 people in unincorporated parts of Champaign County. The first Operation: Sana was back in 1992.