SLIDESHOW: Santa & Burien/NP Fire Department ‘Light Up The Holidays’

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Photos and Story by Michael Brunk

A local tradition for over 25 years, “Light Up The Holidays” is an annual effort by Fire District #2 to provide the makings of a happy holiday to area families in need.

Lt. John Zilke (R) with volunteers

Organized by firefighter Lt. John Zilke, the fire department works with local businesses and the community to gather food, gifts and cash donations in the months leading up to Christmas. Names of needy families are provided by the Department of Social and Health Services.

The ultimate goal? To make sure that each family on the list has a complete turkey dinner with all the trimmings and gifts for the children in the family.

All of the hard work came to fruition this past Wednesday, December 22 when a mass of volunteers arrived in the parking garage of the Town Square condos to sort, pack, load and ultimately deliver the goods to the 48 families on this year’s list.

Coming along to supervise the gift distribution was Santa Claus himself, ladened with additional toys and candy canes to pass out to children we met along the way.

Santa John Nielsen follows volunteers to the next delivery on our list

At each address our convoy of fire engines and support vehicles would stop, unload the boxes of food and gifts for each address and a team of volunteers would haul them along sidewalks, up stairs and into the home of the receiving family.

By the time we’d get back to the trucks, the word would spread and an army of children would be flocking outside to meet Santa and receive a candy cane and stuffed animal or wooden toy.

It’s the kind of experience that works to recalibrate your Christmas spirit.

After seeing the huge smiles on the faces of kids and families from what seems like such a small gift, you can’t help but to reflect a little differently on the happiness in your own life. I think it’s safe to say that the volunteers involved get as much out of the day as the families.

Here’s a selection of photos I shot throughout the day set to a little holiday music. It’s a pale imitation compared to actually participating in an experience like this, but I hope it contributes something to your own sense of the holiday spirit.

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