Firefighters give brand new winter coats to children

Just in time for the cold snap that invaded Western Washington this week, Tacoma Firefighters made sure kids in the most need have a nice, new, warm coat to fend off the winter chill.

Twice this week, on Feb. 4 and 6, fire trucks and off-duty firefighters visited four Tacoma Public Schools with coats in hand, ready to put them right on the happy children at Downing Elementary School, Madison Elementary School, McCarver Elementary School and Stanley Elementary School. By consulting with Tacoma Public Schools’ Head Start program, the firefighters were able to determine which students were in most need of new winter coat. In the end, 200 coats were distributed, purchased with the $6,000 the firefighters raised for the cause. All the coats are American-made to ensure domestic production and by a work force that includes disabled veterans.

Called "Operation Warm – Firefighters Coats for Kids,” the Tacoma firefighters’ giving is part of the national Operation Warm program with which the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) union partners. Firefighter Ryan Mudie is president of Tacoma Firefighters Local 31.

“We thought it was a worthwhile charity and giving back to the community is what we do so we took the opportunity and went after it,” he said. “Making a difference for kids, and our future, is a big piece for us.” This is the first year that Tacoma firefighters have participated in the program, and they plan to make it an annual event.

Mudie said the best part of going out to deliver the coats was the “big smiles and really excited kids. We put the coats right on their backs.”

Funds to purchase the coats were raised through various means, including community giving, generous businesses, grants and an auction at the annual firefighters ball. Coming up in late August at Cheney Stadium, a public safety softball charity game will be held between Tacoma Police and Tacoma Firefighters. This will make the perfect opportunity for people out in the community to contribute to "Operation Warm – Firefighters Coats for Kids.”

Donations, which are tax-deductible, are accepted throughout the year as well. Mail checks or money orders to Tacoma Firefighters Charity Fund, Attn. Coats for Kids, 1109 S. 50th St., Tacoma, WA, 98408.

Without community partners, the firefighters would be hard put to do such successful charity work, according to Mudie. For example, at the Tacoma Firefighters Ball held last month at the Emerald Queen Casino, $34,225 was raised for Camp Goodtimes, a fun and healing place on Vashon Island for children with cancer, on or off treatment, and their siblings 7-17 years old.

“We reached out to our partners in the community, the Emerald Queen Casino and the Puyallup Tribal Council, and they helped us with the facility for a night out for firefighters and their families. We couldn’t have done it without those partnerships,” Mudie said.

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