Carmel firefighter experiences both sides of holiday giving

A Carmel Firefighter shopped for needy kids, a decade after he was on the receiving end. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

CARMEL, Ind (WISH) – Each year, the Carmel Fire Department buys gifts for needy kids, but this year was special for one firefighter who knows how much this program can make a difference.

The firefighters took over Meijer in Carmel Wednesday. “We’re trying to get shirts, shoes, pants, a coat and maybe some underwear,” firefighter Tony Wilson said.

It’s part of the Carmel Firefighter’s community assistance program. For Wilson, it was his first time shopping for it.

“It brings a lot of good memories back,” Wilson said. The department buys things for 200 area kids, from newborns to teenagers.

But Wilson discovered how hard it can be to shop for a teen.

“It’s been a couple of years since I was 17, not too many, but I’m trying to think of something that was cool when I was 17,” Wilson said.

No matter what he selected, Wilson knows it would make a difference. “I enjoy it just as much as I’m sure they’ll enjoy getting the new coats and shirts,” Wilson said.

But Wilson may know more than the other firefighters what this means to kids, because when he was growing-up in Carmel, it was him on the other end, receiving the gifts from the firefighters.

“It made such a difference in my mom’s life too, because she was a single mom at the time,” Wilson said. “So to be able to help these whole families out, just through helping that one kid, makes a huge difference.”

Wilson doesn’t just have the memories, but photos too, including one with a Carmel firefighter, dressed as Santa. A man, he now knows as his superior.

“Find out that Santa is somebody I work with now, that’s just the icing on the cake,” Wilson said.

Wilson won’t deliver the gifts for a few days, but as he wrapped, the young firefighter had time to reflect on how impactful his actions will be.

“I’ll just be able to feel like I did something to make a difference in somebody’s life,” Wilson said.

The department will deliver the gifts on Saturday. It’s not just presents. Firefighters will deliver holiday meals to more than 100 families.

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