ASHWAUBENON, Wis. - Green Bay Metro firefighters save homes and lives. Now, they're even saving Christmas with some help from NBC26 and the Gifts for Teens donation drive.
Santa's sleigh made a pit stop Tuesday at the Bay Park Square Shopko in Ashwaubenon. His busy elves were there encouraging shoppers, like Linda Leupold, to pick-up an extra item or two for a teen in need in Brown County.
"I bought iTune cards, because I thought they could go guy or gal," she explained. "I just feel like teenagers are kind of the forgotten population sometimes. It's fun to buy things for little kids, but it's not always that fun to buy for the teenage years and sometimes it's a challenge for a lot of people."
The Green Bay Metro Fire Department and NBC26 help take the guesswork out by providing a list of gift ideas that teens would like. Some of the suggestions include ear buds and make-up. They're presents some parents simply can't afford.
"I can't imagine. I really can't," said donor Brenda Long of Crivitz. "If we can give to somebody, that can take that pressure off of them, then I'm thankful for it."
Donors made monetary contributions as well. The Shopko Foundation and BayCare Clinic both handed over $1,000 checks.
"I've got teenagers myself and I can't imagine them not having anything to open up on Christmas day, so we're really proud to support the program and make sure that every teen in Brown County is covered for the season," said Michelle Hansen, Manager of Public Relations and the Shopko Foundation.
The firefighters will go shopping with the cash. They hope to buy enough to reach their goal of 1,000 gifts for teens.
"Teenagers, that's a tough time in their life right? It's a stressful time in their life, and for those that are underprivileged, I want them to know that there are people out there who actually care about them, so that they will hopefully make good choices as they go along in life and become contributors to society," said Fire Chief David Litton.
The Chief is proud of his firefighters, especially Gifts for Teens organizer Chad Decker who added nighttime parades in every fire district this year to raise awareness and more donations from the community they serve.
"We want to say thank you," said Decker. "This is by far the best year we've had so far."
That means more teens than ever will have a present to open on Christmas.
Next week, the firefighters and NBC26 will deliver all the Gifts for Teens to Shopko Hall where the Salvation Army will distribute them to those who need them most.
With the shopping event this Friday, we won't know if a new donation record was set until next week, but preliminary numbers show more than $3,500 has been raised so far which is $500 shy of last year's total.