Children lined up to sit on Santa’s lap and make a Christmas wish in front of Marshall Elementary School on Tuesday morning.
“I asked him for a kitten,” Lelani Beck, 8, said, while stirring her candy cane in a mug of warm hot chocolate.
After talking to Santa, each child received a free coat as part of the Operation Warm – Coats for Kids fundraiser put on in partnership between the Vancouver Fire Department Local 452 and local businesses. Firefighters helped each child try on coats from a large pile of donated winter jackets.
Leilani picked out a fuzzy pink and teal coat.
“My goal is just to get as many coats to kids as we can,” said Kerry Furimsky, who teamed up with the fire department four years ago to help promote the drive to local businesses.
So far, Operation Warm has collected around 500 coats this year, which will go to children in 10 schools around Vancouver, according to firefighter Kady Bieber. Vancouver Fire Department Local 452 coordinates with the family resource coordinator at each school to determine the need each year.
The fundraiser has been ongoing for the past 15 years.
“I can’t think of a reason in the world any kids should be cold, without a coat, in Clark County,” said Jerry Jones, who dressed as Santa Claus for the event. “I hope someday we can say there are no cold kids in Clark County.”
Jones owns NW Nut and has been participating in the coat drive for the past four years. Not only does he dress up as Santa, but he collects coat donations at the NW Nut storefront on 179th Street in Ridgefield.
Each coat donation at the store comes with a free picture with Santa, according to Jones.
After the kids talked to Santa, picked out a warm coat and got a cup of hot chocolate provided by Relevant Coffee, they had the opportunity to tour a fire truck.
“How do you learn all this stuff?,” Tabarak Alajan, 10, asked a firefighter.
“A lot of school and a lot of green beans,” Bieber said. “You’ve gotta eat your vegetables.”
Operation Warm will continue giving out coats to kids year-round, according to Furimsky.