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BHFD Visits Hospitals On Christmas

“Santa Claus knew you weren’t going to be home this year for Christmas, so he wanted to come early and give you your first choice of presents,” Beverly Hills Fire Capt. Dean Viana said in his best Santa Claus voice as he pulled out a toy and handed it to a child in the Intensive Care Unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 24.

Looking up at the fire captain was a child who was going to spend his Christmas this year at the hospital.

When he saw Beverly Hills firefighters in helmets and gear walk through the hospital doors with Capt. Viana in his Santa suit, the child smiled ear to ear.

For more than 15 years, the Beverly Hills Firefighters have reached into their own pockets to buy gifts for children in the Critical Care Units and the Pediatric Intensive Care Units at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center and the  Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Despite the tough economic year, the fire department still raised more than $1,000 to purchase new bicycles, iPods, iTunes cards, games and stuffed animals for more than 40 children on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The children ranged from all ages, said Viana.

“We visited a little baby named Bradley who our paramedics saved two weeks ago when he stopped breathing,” said Viana.

Other children the BHFD visited have renal failure, others are waiting for transplants and some children they visited just got out of intensive surgery.

For the children who were not allowed visitors, the firefighters waved and blew kisses through the windows.

“It’s a very emotional day,” said Viana.

The department started early Christmas Eve morning by loading up their gurneys with toys. Viana’s engine company then hopped on the fire truck, driving through the streets of Beverly Hills as passer-byers gave a big wave to the Santa Claus driving the truck.

As they pulled up to the hospital, the firefighters unloaded the gurneys to take upstairs. One by one they stopped in each room of a child in the different critical care units.

Some had families with them while others were totally alone this Christmas Eve.

“Every child was so excited,” he said. “We took photos with Mom and Dad. There was a lot of joy, but also tears.”

This year was a special year. It was the first time Santa came with the firefighters.

Viana, who has been at BHFD for 16 years, asked his mother, Ginette Tiller—a seamstress, to sew a special Santa costume.

The costume, worn by Viana on Christmas Eve, was left for firefighter Mitch Furman to wear on Christmas Day when more firefighters visited the intensive care units and critical care units at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

“This is an event the fire department looks forward to every year.”

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