Dearborn firefighters spread holiday cheer

The holiday season got off to an early start last week at the Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families in Dearborn.

About 40 Dearborn firefighters and other volunteers filled the lobby at the special needs clinic with toys and other presents through the annual Burn Drive campaign.

“This is a big day for us,” said Capt. Steven Worden, who organized the drive this year. “We raise funds all year long. The money goes right back into the community.”

The Burn Drive has taken place for more than 30 years, he said, and generated more than $1 million for various charitable efforts throughout the community. This year alone, he said the Burn Drive brought in about $55,000. The bulk of that funding is distributed during the holiday season.

The Center has benefitted from the donations for more than five years, said Tammy Morris, the manager of the CEF. She said the gifts are always appreciated.

“It’s such a fantastic blessing to pass from you to us to our families,” she told the crowd of do-gooders Friday morning.

The holiday season can be a trying one for families with special needs children, she added.

“With all the additional expenses these families face, there isn’t always a lot of extra money for gifts," Morris said.

Dearborn Councilman David Bazzy, also on hand for the event, said he was impressed with the spirit of giving he saw in the community.
“We have a lot of great people here,” he said. “I’m proud of all they do to support the community.”

The Center for Exceptional Families serves children with special needs and their families, regardless of their ability to pay. Services range from health care to physical, occupational and speech therapy, counseling and more. Based in Dearborn, it serves thousands of families throughout southeastern Michigan and Ohio.

CUTLINES: Top, L to R: Back row: Ian Kushnir, Dearborn Fire Department, Gary McAleer, Chad Bronson, Dearborn Fire Department, Steve Worden, captain, Dearborn Fire Department; Middle Row: Tammy Morris, Susan Youngs, MD, Carrie Graber: Front Row: Sparky, Santa, Jacob Smith, five years old, of Canton and Peter McCrary.
Above: L to R: Santa, Jacob Smith, age 5, of Canton and Melanie Fiorillo, firefighter, Dearborn Fire Department.