UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) — Santa is normally used to riding a sleigh, but on Wednesday night, he made a special appearance at a Ronald McDonald House in New York City riding in a fire truck to the lift the spirits of children who could use a smile.
When Santa drops by a Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan this time each year, he now trades in his reindeer and sleigh for an FDNY truck with a very long ladder.
It’s been this way since 2020 to keep children with delicate immune systems safe, but still get up close.
“Now this has become our new tradition, where Santa is taking a special ride up in the bucket truck and seeing all the kids in their rooms,” said Caitlin Conklin of Ronald McDonald House.
“We call it the miracle on 73rd Street, because we didn’t think we’d be able to do it,” NYPD Officer PJ Conley said. “But we figured out a way to do it and have Santa interact with kids from outside.”
Santa’s visit at this temporary home in New York for kids all over the world getting medical treatment, has been coordinated by the NYPD and FDNY for more than 30 years. He’s welcomed with lights and Christmas carols.
But this change for the children’s safety in the last three years, has actually added some exciting. After all, what child doesn’t love a fire truck?
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“I’m just speechless about all of this. It’s just amazing,” said 11-year-old Rory O’Neal, who is recovering from surgery.
The Ronald McDonald House traditionally supports the whole family of the young patients, giving parents and siblings a place to stay too.
For a lot of families, it’ll be their first Christmas away from home.
“What a beautiful surprise. And I didn’t realize how the community has just come together so we can experience this,” mom Nga LeMoine.
The 19th Precinct officers and Engine 44 firefighters are Santa’s elves for the evening, delivering presents and money they’ve collected.
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O’Neal will hopefully be cleared to go home to Tennessee in a couple of days but he and his dad, who have been staying here, have met families who need longer stays through the holidays.
“For Ronald McDonald House and NYPD and FDNY to put something together like this, and go up to those windows where those kids really can’t have social contact, so that can get a little spirit of the holidays, that’s incredible,” Rory O’Neal’s dad Shaun O’Neal said.
“They’re going through some hard times and even the mom and dad are going through some hard times and if they see their child just smiling for a moment, it’s worth it,” FDNY Lt. Bobby Jones said.
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