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Lathrop-Manteca firefighters spread Christmas cheer

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Lathrop-Manteca firefighters spread Christmas cheer

Video from the 14th annual Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association Christmas for Kids event .

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POSTED December 20, 2012 12:51 a.m.

LATHROP – Jorge Reyes knew when he climbed up on Santa’s lap that he was getting a bicycle.

It wasn’t that the Christmas holiday gave the 7-year-old Stella Brockman student psychic powers.

He just happened to see his name on the tag of the shiny red bike sitting beside every child’s favorite figure at the 14th annual Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association Christmas for Kids event at Grace Community Church Wednesday night.

And he couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“I’m excited,” he said from behind a toothy grin. “I’m going to ride it tomorrow.”

Reyes represented one of 70 kids from 27 different families that were screened and selected by both the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters and representatives from the local Head Start program. Those that were selected needed a little bit of extra assistance during the holiday season.

On top of the gifts that were presented to every child, each family was treated to a pizza dinner . They were also sent home with a full Christmas dinner consisting of a turkey and all of the fixings.

It was something that Holly Silva – who watched daughters Jocelyn, 5, and Taylor, 4, buzz around exuberantly – was grateful to receive.

“I think that this is something that really helps out the families that are on a limited budget,” she said. “The kids get gifts, but it helps give them a little something extra. And it’s extremely helpful for the people who get laid off this time of year.

“That makes it even harder on the families.”

Putting the event together took Engineer Kevin Wallace and his crew – Acting Captain Tim Kovacs, Captain Keith Connor and Acting Captain Jeff Parker – nearly two months.

That was two months of lining up donors. Two months of making sure that the families were all screened and in place. Two months of working with other non-profits like Second Harvest Food Bank to make sure that each family had a Christmas meal to enjoy on the most holy of holidays.

But as Wallace walked around the room Wednesday and watched the children opening their presents with their parents and stared at the ear-to-ear smiles, he couldn’t help but smile himself.

“That’s what this is all about – getting to see something like that,” he said. “It’s a joy to my heart to be able to give back to the community, and to be able to watch these kids open the presents is amazing.

“I hear so many stories each year – it’s a blessing. I’m personally blessed by it.”

The event was sponsored by Lathrop Police Services, the Home Depot distribution Center, Target, Costco Manteca, Milan’s Pizza, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Starbucks Lathrop and the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association 4317.

Wallace – who has been at the helm of the event for the past seven years – also said he’d like to thank Chief Gene Neely for his assistance in putting everything together.

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