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Escorting the big man in red
Santa Runs spread cheer, collect toys for those in need
santa waves
Santa Claus, aka firefighter Robbie Jordan of the Bryan County Fire Department, waves Thursday night as he approaches a group of families in the Waterford Landing subdivision in Richmond Hill. The BCFD will continue conducting its annual Santa Runs next week as weather permits. - photo by Jeff Whitte

Thursday was an unseasonably warm December night, even by the Georgia coast’s usually balmy standards.
That didn’t stop Santa from making his nightly rounds, courtesy the Bryan County Fire Department. In triplicate.
Escorted by firetrucks and plenty of helpers, the BCFD’s three Santas — aka Capt. Asa Clay, Lt. Ed Wells and firefighter Robbie Jordan — each walked neighborhoods in South Bryan, handing out candy canes and posing for photos with kids, and kids of all ages.
The BCFD has been doing this annually each Christmas since 2002. They’ll continue doing it through next Thursday, as long as the weather cooperates.
As far as Clay is concerned, they’ll keep it up for many Christmases to come.
“We couldn’t stop it now even if we wanted to,” Clay said. “People actually look forward to it. It makes their night.”
Not that anybody wants to stop the Santa Runs. They’re too much fun.
“We do it for the kids. It’s fun for them and it’s fun for us,” said Jordan, whose Santa visited Waterford Landing on Thursday night.
It was fun for David and Rebecca Abel and their infant daughter, Sydney. They donated a toy to the Firefighters for Tots toy drive and took a photo with Santa.
“It’s wonderful,” Rebecca Abel said, noting they rode around the neighborhood earlier Thursday and everyone was talking about the impending visit from Santa. “We have a new baby, a new family, and it’s pretty neat to be involved in a community that reaches out to people like this. It kind of brings everybody together.”
Justin Hallman was among those who helped Jordan distribute candy canes and pick up donations of toys and money the firefighters in turn distribute to needy families.
Hallman, 15, is a junior firefighter whose step-father, Chris Cuza, and grandfather, Mike Smith — a captain with BCFD, are both firefighters.
Being a volunteer runs in the family, he said. Being on the Santa Run is more about helping bring Christmas to kids, he said.
“I just like seeing the kids’ faces,” Hallman said. “The looks on their faces when they see Santa reminds me of when I was a young kid.”
In Waterford, there were plenty of those — infants who goggled at Santa as if uncertain what to think, awe-stricken toddlers, kindergartners and grade-schoolers who handed him letters or told him what they wanted for Christmas. There were teens who grinningly offered to give Santa a lift on their golf cart to the next stop.
At one stop, a group of girls screamed Santa’s name so loudly it seemed they’d mistaken Jordan as a red-suited, bearded Justin Beiber. At many stops in Waterford, adults hugged Santa and posed for photos with him.
And the firefighters seem to get a kick out of it, too.
Stephen Woods and Austin Philphot are two of the county’s fulltime firefighters who went along to Waterford on Thursday night.
Had there been a call, they would’ve responded, Jordan said.
“We’re our own backup,” he said.
There were no calls. Instead, as Philphot drove, Woods walked in front of the truck to help keep traffic moving and help Hallman keep Jordan supplied with candy canes.
“The kids enjoy it,” Woods said. “They just want to see Santa. And it’s good for the community to see we do extra things, not just fire protection.”
Besides, Woods, who is also an EMS worker, noted that too often firefighters only see residents in bad situations, from fires to wrecks to medical emergencies.
“It’s nice to get to come out and see them when they’re happy,” he said.

Read more in the Dec. 7 edition of the News.

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