MEDFORD — With blue and red lights flashing and sirens whooping, a firetruck carrying Globe Santa turned the corner to a cheering cluster of families at the Christmas tree-lighting in Medford Square on Tuesday evening.
After Santa climbed out of the Medford firetruck with the help of firefighters, he greeted a few children munching on chocolate chip cookies donated by Modern Pastry across the street. A group of kids decorating tree ornaments with colorful glitter at a table nearby dropped what they were doing to catch a glimpse of St. Nicholas.
The Medford chapter of the Kiwanis Club hosted the event on Tuesday, and the Medford High School band hauled a 17-foot-tall Christmas tree to be lit in the square, according to Kiwanis member Rita Cornelio, who is in charge of the club’s Globe Santa fund-raising efforts.
A group countdown from 10 prompted the lighting, and the tree dazzled with lights and ornaments across the color spectrum.
Members of the club presented an oversized, bright yellow check for $5,000 to Globe Santa in front of the newly lit tree, after the children had patiently waited in line to tell Santa what they hoped to see under their own trees Christmas morning.
“That $5,000 has been raised by the members of the Kiwanis who dip into their pockets and give Globe Santa the money directly,” state Representative Paul Donato, also a member of Medford Kiwanis, said in an interview. “I think it’s the most important thing we can do during the Christmas season — to make sure we take care of the children.”
Donato, who was in foster care as a child, said he understands “the difficulties of the children who don’t have anything and are in need.” He believes that donating to Globe Santa means supporting kids like him.
Cornelio herself was a recipient of Globe Santa’s generosity at age 8, after she and her mother had just moved to Boston’s North End from Orsogna, Italy, as refugees of World War II. She arrived in the United States without knowing any English and began navigating an entirely new culture, Cornelio said.
However, when she found multiple boxes of children’s books, pencils, crayons, and toys at the door of her fourth-floor apartment that Christmas, she was given a beacon of hope and cheer that year, Cornelio said.
“I got my first teddy bear. So I love teddy bears to this day,” Cornelio said. “It was just incredible. I got so many different types of toys that I actually shared with some of the neighbors’ children because I just couldn’t believe it. I will never, ever forget. I’ve been loyal to Globe Santa since that day.”
On Tuesday, Cornelio made sure everyone had a paper cup full of Dunkin’ hot chocolate and a chance to speak with Globe Santa, giving back to the organization who gave her Christmas as a kid.
Among the revelers was Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, with her pet dog in tow.
“This is a great event that’s put on by the Kiwanis,” Lungo-Koehn said. “Every year it brings out a great crowd along the route and here at the square to take pictures with Santa. It’s great for the kids that celebrate Christmas, to see their faces when Santa pulls up on the firetruck. It’s pretty awesome.”
Medford Fire Deputy Chief Bill Young and his wife, Courtney, brought their two children, 2-year-old Aubrey and 3-year-old Taylor, to Tuesday’s tree-lighting to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.
“I’m here as a dad. We wanted to see Santa. [My kids] are enjoying their first Christmas where they’re old enough to know what it’s about,” Young said while holding Aubrey. “Makes you proud of the city that you live in.”
For 68 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail, or online at globesanta.org.