How to make a child feel like a rock star during the holidays: limousines, pizza and a nationally recognized Christmas lights display.
Firefighters from Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department have a long-standing relationship with Child Abuse Prevention Association in Port Royal.
This year firefighters dug in their own pockets to raise about $800, recruited Bluffton-based Camelot Limousine service and sent 15 children from the CAPA shelter on a VIP-like excursion Thursday to see the Holiday Festival of Lights. The 3-mile display in James Island County Park in Charleston has received national acclaim.
The organization visits the display each year on the first Thursday of December to clear the shelter for its annual open house. For those trips, they use the CAPA bus.
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“Not too many people can say they went to see the Festival of Lights in limos,” Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Lt. Ross Vezin said.
Two, 120-inch black Lincoln stretch limousines pulled up in front of CAPA on Thursday. Drivers stepped out in Christmas sweaters and Santa hats.
Children peered into the tinted windows before piling in.
“Why wouldn’t I be excited?” a girl squealed to a friend.
The money firefighters raised will go to fuel for the limos, a pizza dinner at St. Andrews Fire Department and snacks and juice boxes for the ride to Charleston.
The 15 children in the shelter are capacity for the shelter, CAPA director Christina Wilson said. The shelter accepts newborns to those 21 years old.
Each year the fire department hosts breakfast for the children in the shelter on Christmas morning. The kids bring their toys provided by area donation efforts, and the firefighters help assemble them.
What’s leftover from the money raised from the lights trip will go toward the Christmas breakfast. The holiday tradition includes firetruck rides for the children.
“This year we are doing that, but we also wanted to do something a little extra special,” Vezin said. “Everyone loves the Christmas lights at James Island.”
Vezin is active with other children’s organizations.
He was chosen by the board of the Medical University of South Carolina Burned Children’s Fund to represent South Carolina this year at International Burn Camp. He also has served as a counselor at Camp Can Do, a burn camp in Charleston.
The fire department has remained involved with CAPA. When the shelter took in several babies, firefighters assembled the cribs. They also decorate the shelter for Christmas.
“They’re just available at the drop of the hat,” Wilson said.