Town completes Operation Fire Cuffs

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Colchester police Cpl. Jamie Bressler and Officer Michael West display some of the toys they collected for a toy drive for patients in the Vermont Children's Hospital. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Colchester police Cpl. Jamie Bressler and Officer Michael West display some of the toys they collected for a toy drive for patients in the Vermont Children’s Hospital. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Smiles abounded last Thursday at the University of Vermont Medical Center as children gathered with police officers, firefighters, rescue members, Champ and the big man himself – Santa.

Officer Michael West and Cpl. Jamie Bressler of Colchester police were among 50 or so emergency personnel from around the state who helped collect toys and gifts for the children’s hospital as part of Operation Fire Cuffs.

Last Thursday notched the sixth annual event, initially started by Burlington firefighter Phil Edgerley and Vermont State Police Trooper Christian Hunt to collect toys for the Vermont Children’s Hospital.

While Cpl. David Dewey couldn’t make it to the hospital, he spearheaded CPD’s participation for the third year in a row. Colchester town offices also hopped on board this year.

Collecting at least two 30-gallon barrels full of toy donations, town management coordinator Linda Gustainis was thankful to the community, who bought and dropped off the gifts at the town offices.

“It’s brightening [the kids’] day – their Christmas,” Gustainis said. “It’s a bummer to be in the hospital for the holiday, so we felt it was a good way to spread the cheer of the season.”

BFD, VSP and Morristown police were the first teams to come together and kick off the event six years ago. During this year’s go-around, a joint effort of 15 departments collected over 2,000 gifts.

“It’s actually incredible just to see the amount of people who want to take part in it,” Edgerley said, noting he already has a few verbal commitments for next year.

Colchester plans on contributing again next year and encourages others to join the operation.

Participation on CPD’s part is a no-brainer, Dewey said. The collection not only spreads cheer to hospitalized kids during the holiday season, but year-round.

“As cops, we get involved in some not so positive things,” the corporal said. “So to be involved in something positive and really fun, how could you say no?”

As for the hospital, senior administrative coordinator Sue Victory said she was thrilled to see children and officers smiling in the lobby before heading up to the children’s wing to deliver the gifts.

“They have done this now for many years, and every year it just gets bigger and bigger,” she said. “We are so appreciative to have the partnership and that they’re thinking of the children this time of year.”

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Jaelyn Huckins, 10, tells Santa what she wants for Christmas last Thursday at the University of Vermont Medical Center. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

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Santa listens to a child’s Christmas wishes in the lobby of the University of Vermont Medical Center last Thursday during Operation Fire Cuffs. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

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Two young boys listen in as Santa reads a Christmas book with Champ by his side. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

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Santa hoists his bag of toys as he steps out of a Burlington fire truck and into the lobby of the University of Vermont Medical Center. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)