It was something out of a childhood dream: First, you’re told to pick out a bicycle then, after you’ve gotten one of the most coveted Christmas gifts, you’re given a giant black trash bag to fill up with as many toys as you want. For free.
That’s the experience that Cal Fire/Napa County firefighters gave more than 20 children on Christmas Day at the fire station on Monticello Road.
“This is amazing,” said Rachel Tramontini. “I had no idea it was going to be like this.”
Tramontini’s two sons, Takeo, 5, and Trajan, 5, looked like they were having a blast riding bikes, hula hooping, and picking out toys with a little help from firefighters and Santa Claus. The family lost most of their belongings, including the boys’ stuff, during the wildfire that wiped out many homes on Soda Canyon Road.
The family had just moved in, so their stuff was in a warehouse on the property. The warehouse burned. But, “Luckily,” the house didn’t, Tramontini said.
Nisana Pollard and her family just moved into a home in Vallejo after staying at a shelter in Napa for about four months. A lot of their stuff is still in boxes.
“I’ve never done any of this,” Pollard said of the toy giveaway. “It’s cool.”
The kids had so much stuff that it didn’t even fit in their car.
“I thought it was really neat to wake up, bring them here and have them pick out what they want,” said Tiffany Clarke of Napa.
Clarke’s oldest, 7-year-old Arianna, knew exactly what she wanted: “My favorite thing is dogs,” she said. In addition to grabbing some stuffed animals, Arianna was grabbing Barbie dolls by the armful, filling her bag with all things pink.
“We feel very happy because it’s the first time in their lifetime that they’ve ever experienced something like this,” said Rosa Viveros Vasquez of Napa.
Viveros Vasqueuz’s granddaughter, Vanessa, 6, was most excited about the baby doll she picked out. Vanessa’s little sister, Rosa, 3, was asleep, but the family said the giant teddy bear was her favorite.
The department’s toy drive, to which Napa County residents contribute, has been in operation for 22 years. Cal Fire Capt. Matt Newberry, who has been running it since 2005, said he enjoys doing it.
“I just keep doing it to see the smile on their faces,” Newberry said Monday. “I have four daughters of my own and they’re blessed with really whatever they need or want … there’s a lot of kids, especially this year with the fires and everything that’s been happening, that aren’t as fortunate as my family.”