JOPLIN, MO.--- Local firefighters are putting toys under the tree for kids to open on Christmas morning. Carts filled to the brim with toys, all to make Christmas a little merrier for kids in Joplin and surrounding communities.
"We're buying bicycles and scooters, but basically just toys for the kids that are kind of hot items right now. We'll just kind of shop and do the best we can with our money," says Shannon Branham, Christmas for Kids Director.
For the 28th year in a row, area firefighters become Santa's helpers, buying gifts for children who might not have them otherwise. It's part of their "Christmas for Kids" program.
"Sometimes families fall upon hard times and if we don't step up and take care of this for these kids, they might not have a Christmas at all," says Branham.
Firefighters went up and down the toy aisles at both Joplin Wal-Mart stores tonight. They're giving away nearly $17,000 worth of gifts to area children this year.
"A lot of the families, they tells us, if it wasn't for us the kids couldn't have gotten anything. You know, they struggle from bill to bill, paycheck to paycheck, and we are the ones that make Christmas happen for them," says Branham.
Organizers say it's all about spreading holiday cheer and making sure kids have something to open on Christmas morning.
"It's about family and the community and that's what we're doing, is giving back to the community and trying to make everybody happy," says Branham.
Organizers are still taking applications for families who might benefit from the program. They're available at Mid-American Title Loans.
Copyright 2013 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.