BANGOR, Maine — A group of Bangor firefighters get together and play a summertime baseball game against the Boston Red Sox alumni team to raise money so they can play Santa each December and provide gifts for needy children.
“[Playing Santa] started probably eight or nine years ago when three of us got money from the union and went out and did it and came back and told the guys how rewarding it was,” Firefighter Casey Perry said Sunday about shopping for Toys for Tots. “It grew from there. It’s grown to like 20 guys.”
The Red Sox alumni game supports a number of local charities, and this year $3,000 of the revenue raised went to purchase holiday gifts for local children.
“It’s a family event,” Perry said of the charity shopping. “[Firefighters] bring their children, their wives.”
On Saturday night, the shopping firefighters were inside the Robert O. Cupcake toy store and the Briar Patch playing with some of the toys, including firefighter puppets that Lt. Greg Hodge used for an impromptu comedy show.
“Toys for Tots requested teen-girl stuff and Legos. We did that at Walmart, and we picked out some stuff for 0- to 5-year-olds from downtown shops,” Perry said. “We’re just trying to help out the local stores. We figure with the economy the way things are, the local merchants would appreciate the business.”
Both shops were cleared out of firefighter toys — trucks, play gear, puppets — and other toys that were loaded into the fire department’s heavy rescue vehicle.
“They were kind enough to give us a discount when we checked out, so it allowed us to buy even more toys than we originally planned,” Perry said of the two downtown children’s shops. “Each store, the Briar Patch and Robert O. Cupcake, gave us 20 percent off.”
The shopping firefighters and those who volunteer to play ball against the Red Sox alumni team have fun participating and are rewarded knowing that needy children will wake up on Christmas with presents under their tree.
“A lot of the time, firefighters get the credit for doing this, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support from the public coming to our events, the fire department and the chief,” Perry said.
“During the summer games, people aren’t really thinking about Christmas and Toys for Tots, but that is where most of the money raised goes.”