80.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesJunior Firefighters Event Continues Longstanding Tradition

Junior Firefighters Event Continues Longstanding Tradition

Dec. 18, 2005—The Junior Firefighters' annual Christmas party is something that "kids in the community really look forward to," according to Daryl George, Junior Firefighters' program coordinator.
"It’s an event that we've been hosting for over 30 years, so it's also longstanding tradition—people expect it to happen," he added. "Especially around this time of year—when there are no other events like these for children—it's something that people on the island can come to and have a lot of fun."
This year's event did not disappoint—from Emancipation Gardens to Vendors Plaza, the street in front of the little firehouse in downtown Charlotte Amalie was packed with community members, kids waiting for a glimpse of Santa Claus, and tables laden with food, drinks, and other treats.
Firefighters took turns working two barbeque grills outside the station, and danced along with other residents to Christmas music coming from speakers set up for the event. Junior firefighters helped out by decorating cupcakes, serving food, and getting more than 200 presents ready for Santa to hand out later that evening to local children attending the party.
"It really is an exciting day," Aretha Benjamin, a Junior Firefighters lieutenant, said. "It always feels wonderful to see the children so happy when we give them their presents. We put a lot of work into the event every year, and it's great when you get to see what actually comes out of it."
Benjamin explained that the group has been busy for the last few weeks raising money to host the event.
"We've done various fundraisers—we had a car wash, and a fish fry a couple of days ago. But mostly, we've been writing letters to local businesses to see what they can donate for us to do this," she said.
George added that this year, the donations were not what the Junior Firefighters are used to receiving.
"We did have to cut back a little," he said. "People are struggling this year, and we understand that. And we did receive some toys from donors, but for the most part, we raised the money ourselves."
"We do what we can do with whatever money we have," Arthel Benjamin, Junior Firefighters' former president, said. "Yeah, it was a little tight this year, but we try our best to give the kids a good time. That's what's really important."
Benjamin added that having the party and having the kids around during the holidays, is important to her as well. In addition to having fun with the three daughters she currently has enrolled in the Junior Firefighters, she also uses the time each year to remember her eldest daughter, a former V.I. firefighter, who lost her life while trying to put out a fire a few years ago.
"I do really miss her," said sister Aretha. "She's that's the reason I joined the Junior Firefighters in the first place—and I want to learn about the job she did, and hopefully, one day, become a firefighter myself."
After the Benjamins went back to join the festivities, Jose "Crash" Kean Jr., this year's Santa Claus, took the time to talk about why the annual party is so important to him.
"I've been playing Santa ever since I came on the job in 1970," Kean, also a former firefighter, said. "I love the kids, and as long as I live, I'll dedicate this part of the year to them."
Kean also reminisced about some of the memories he's collected while playing Santa Claus.
"I always hand out the presents from one of the fire trucks," he said. "Well, a few years ago, we tried to hook up a machine to make it look like snow was falling on the truck. But snow just made the truck all slippery, so I fell, and when I did, all the kids just ran up and jumped on me. It was the best feeling in the world."
While sharing the story, Kean's face lights up in a big smile. "It really is something I look forward to every year," he said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.