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Dearborn Firefighters Spread Christmas Joy to Special Needs Youth

The Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families got a visit from Santa (and his firefighter helpers), bearing plenty of gifts to go around.

A play set for Abigail, a doll for Katie, cars for Logan—Christmas came early to the children served by the Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families, thanks to the generous support of Dearborn firefighters.

Members of the fire department dropped off armfuls of toys Tuesday to the center, which serves thousands of youth with special needs throughout the region. Toys were purchased with funds raised through their Dearborn Firefighters Burn Drive charity.

The Burn Drive raises funds to help families in need all year long, but their toy drop is a particularly special event, when firefighters get to personally hand over toys to children at the CEF and several other locations.

CEF Medical Director Dr. Susan Youngs says it's by far the best day of the year.

"Our holiday giving program started 10 years ago," she explained. "It has really grown over the years, and the firefighters took it to a whole new level."

Overall, the center gives out gifts to more than 100 families, serving more than 400 children—and their siblings and parents.

"When we give for Christmas, we give to the whole family," she said, adding that the Burn Drive is their largest donor.

The program serves some of the center's neediest famlies, who might otherwise not have gifts to celebrate Christmas. Donations to the families include toys, but also gift cards and donations that allow them to purchase a particularly special gift for their child.

"People are so grateful," Youngs said, adding that she always tears up when she sees children opening their gifts. "Every one of these famlies has their own story—a journey as a family of a child with special needs—and to walk with them on that journey is what we try to do."

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