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Unsung heroes make holidays a little brighter

December 31, 2007|By BILL KOHLER

2007 has been a tough year.

Not just for me or you, but for everyone.

A lot of things have pushed our buttons the past 12 months - and some of them have been the panic type.

No Staples' Easy Buttons for a lot of people.

The world is on fire, the economy is slumping, 19 gazillion Orioles were named in the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball, the housing bubble has burst, gas is three bucks a gallon, my escrow's going up, there's a hole in the ozone level and overall, we've been pretty mean to each other.

Logging on to YouTube or CNN.com is like taking a direct road to depression.

Being in the news business for more than 20 years, I get exposed to a lot of the bad stuff that goes on in the world and sometimes I want to scream: "STOP THE MADNESS."

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To that vein, I wanted to share stories about some unsung heroes in our midst. I don't know many of their names and I don't pretend to know their motivations.

Their actions have spoken louder than their words in 2007 and beyond.

Firefighters and EMS

I mentioned to colleague Meg Partington last week how impressed I was with the Sharpsburg Area EMS crew when they threw a party - Santa, food and gifts - for the darling little Faith Warfield of Boonsboro. Faith, 3, was diagnosed with leukemia in July and the Sharpsburg group threw her her own holiday bash.

Then I got to thinking. What they did for Faith and her family was outstanding, but all our area firefighters and first responders do things just as incredible every day. They respond to emergencies, risk their lives fighting fires and saving the lives of others. And many of these people are VOLUNTEERS!

That's truly heroic.

By the way, other groups who helped with Faith's party included Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co., Sharpsburg American Legion Auxiliary Unit 236 and Potomac Valley Fire Co.

Several area businesses also supported the effort with donations of money and items.

Make-A-Wish

For the fourth straight year, volunteers with the Franklin County (Pa.) Make-A-Wish Foundation made the holidays brighter for children with life-threatening illnesses.

The Franklin County group hosted a Christmas party for 19 children at the Knights of Columbus in Chambersburg. The Columbian Ladies Group and other members of the K of C cooked the food and provided the hall. The Ladies also took the time to serve and decorate.

The party was a "resounding success," according to organizer Donna Steiner.

Penn National Outreach, a group from Mont Alto, Pa., donated money and even knitted items to be given to the children.

Wow! What a team effort to make Christmas better for ill children.

Mont Alto's elves

On Dec. 2, Santa rode a big sleigh powered by a diesel engine instead of Rudy, Donder, Blitzen and the boys.

He was delivering toys to down-on-their-luck families in Franklin County and the Cascade area as part of the ninth annual Mont Alto Volunteer Fire Department Toy Drive.

And Santa doesn't just give out toys. He hands out food and gift cards to families to help them get other things they need during the holidays.

Last year, the firetrucks stopped at 138 homes. That's a heck of a "drive" if you think about it.

Tip of the hat, too, to those who donated food, money and toys to the effort.

'A little bit of happiness'

Correctional officers at the Franklin County Jail in Chambersburg were at a loss earlier this year. They lost one of their own when Stacey Reed was killed in a one-car crash coming home from work.

The jail employees turned a negative into a positive when they went to bat for Stacey's three children. Instead of exchanging names, they decided to throw a surprise Christmas celebration for the three kids.

Santa Claus showed up at the annual employee holiday dinner on Dec. 15 with about 100 presents for the kids.

And, the employees weren't done yet. They started a trust fund for the children, ages 11, 6 and 5.

"We really wanted to try to give them a little bit of happiness," said Corrections Officer Robert Fink.

And isn't that what the holidays - and life - are all about?

Bill Kohler is Tri-State editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at billk@herald-mail.com.

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