Santa Brings Early Holiday Joy to Kids at St. Mary's Hospital for Children

NY Daily News - December 23, 2011

by Lisa L. Colangelo NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Firefighters from Engine 320/Ladder 167 continue annual toy drive and visit

Santa made an early visit to the kids at St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Bayside last week with the help of New York's Bravest.

Firefighters from Engine 320/Ladder 167 used their rig to help Santa descend from the roof and visit with dozens of children who are battling serious illnesses.

Continuing a tradition started over 15 years ago, the firefighters also brought a van-load of gifts that ranged from toys and dolls to cameras, radios and electronic games.

"This is something the kids really look forward to," said Allison McGeough, manager of pediatric day health care programs at the hospital. "Some of them don't have opportunities like this and they look forward to the attention."

Retired firefighter Keith Palumbo, who organizes the visit and toy drive, said seeing the kids' faces is the best gift of all.

"It's unbelievable how happy they are," he said.

Palumbo said the toy drive started small 15 years ago when firefighter Bob Scalia took it upon himself to drop off toys at the hospital.

Over the years, the drive continued to grow. Firefighter Vinny Sottile of Ladder 167 started playing Santa and Lt. Michael O'Donnell figured out ways to make his entrance more dramatic.

Palumbo credited Joe Marrone at PC Richard and local business Raindew with matching donations and providing gifts at low or no cost.

"Without them, we would not be able to bring as many gifts," Palumbo said.

The firefighters also spent time visiting with the children and their families. Some of the kids receive outpatient services while others are temporarily living at the hospital.

"You hear how much they appreciate it and that's what it's all about," Palumbo said.