Ottumwa Life Holiday 2018 - Page 30

Finding Association, Chance said. “During our events, we bring Sparky out,” Chance said. “That’s our mascot for our fire prevention [programs]. “He’s not always Sparky Claus. He’s out in the community throughout the year,” said Chance. Sparky walks in the Oktoberfest parades and the Ottumwa High School Homecoming parade. When Sparky’s not working an event, “he’s just hanging on the wall,” Chance said. The Sparky costume is replaced periodically. Current Sparky’s head, a more cartoonish version of a dog, looks down from the wall on 1990s Sparky’s more bio- logically accurate dog head. The new Sparky head has venti- lation and fans to cool the wearer, Chance said, but those additions makes it heavier as well. Any firefighter might be Sparky for an event. “Usually it’s the low- est-ranking member of the fire department that day,” Chance said. When events last hours, fire- fighters take turns being Sparky; the suit makes the wearer hot and uncomfortable. “About an hour is all you want to be in it,” said Sparky Claus trees have these tags telling toy buyers who they’re buying for and what the children want. Chance. Community events keep Sparky and the fire department in the public eye. When the department isn’t fighting fires or taking care of medical calls, it’s increasing public awareness. “[That’s] why we have good community support,” Chance said. The Sparky Claus campaign begins in November, Chance said. Sieda screens families for pro- gram. “They cut off at 300 [fami- lies], which is about 1,000 kids.” The children are referred to by number, keeping them anony- mous. Their names, ages, gender and what toys they like are recorded on a tag on a Sparky Claus tree. Community members take the tags, buy gifts for the children and return the tags and gifts to the fire department. Extra toys donated to the fire department are distributed to additional children through other local organizations. “We go up to young adults,” Chance said. Teenagers typically want hoodies and electronics rath- er than toys. Donated items cannot be wrapped, Chance said. The depart- ment wants to make sure the packages and toys are safe. Sieda gives parents wrapping paper when they pick up toys for their children so parents can wrap the gifts themselves, Chance said. The fire department also pro- vides coats to students who need them any time during the winter. “Schools call and tell us they have a student without [a coat],” Locally owned and operated since 2000 Free In-Home Consultation www.comfortkeepers.com 230 TURNER DRIVE 641-684-4606 NON-MEDICAL IN HOME HEALTH CARE 407 Church Street Ottumwa, IA 52501 641-684-8608