AUBURN — They waited anxiously on the front stoop of their Second Street apartment building as the firetruck rolled up the street. But instead of firefighters in full gear and heavy equipment, there was one bearded guy in a full red suit with a heavy sack.

Santa caught a ride Sunday afternoon with the Auburn Fire Department to the apartment building in New Auburn to deliver toys, hope, smiles and cheer to two families living in the building.

“I’m so excited because Santa’s here, and he brought us presents,” 10-year-old Adryana Hutchinson said as Santa and his fellow firefighter’s made their way into the families small living room.

Hutchinson and her younger brother, 8-year-old Jesse, were visited by the main man in red along with their neighbors and friends, 10-year-old Ryan Bennet and his 8-year-old sister, Kristen. Santa and his firefighting elves delivered wrapped gifts to families throughout the day on Sunday as part of the Auburn Fire Department’s annual Truckload of Toys.

Firefighter Jim Hart, who has an uncanny resemblance to Santa, said firefighters use about $2,000 of the $25,000 to $27,000 raised each year for a variety of children’s programs to buy gifts for the Truckload of Toys program. Several other organizations donate toys to the cause, including the Edward Little High School hockey team, which stopped by the station Sunday morning with carloads of toys for the effort.

“Most of the time when we see people they’re calling us on their worst day,” Lt. Chris Andreasen said. “So to be involved in something so positive; it’s really important to us.”

Andreasen and toy drive organizers Hart and fellow firefighter Mitch Sperry said this year the effort aims to help 15 to 20 area families. The three said that other firefighters have done everything from donating toys to wrapping gifts to providing coverage for Engine 2 when they’re out making deliveries.

Families are referred to the Fire Department by Dot Meagher, health and social services director for the city of Auburn. Hart said that firefighters usually provide six to seven gifts per child.

“A lot of these kids, no matter what you give them, they’re going to be happy,” Sperry said. “It’s so worth it. There’s always been that connection between firefighters and children.”


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