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Dozens of vulnerable kids spend 'Holiday with a Hero'

'Today was all about coming together to support some awesome kids and their families,' United Way official says of Saturday's event

United Way Simcoe Muskoka hosted its third annual “Holiday with a Hero” event on Saturday.

The organization says 80 vulnerable children and youth were connected with local "heroes" — firefighters, paramedics, police and military members — for a "unique holiday party designed to break down barriers."

The United Way says holiday spirit could be seen in all the smiling and laughing faces of all involved. 

“Today was all about coming together to support some awesome kids and their families,” United Way Simcoe Muskoka chief executive and philanthropy officer Brian Shelley said in a release.

“It was impactful for all of us," he added. "I’ve had several officers tell me that it was one of the most rewarding days of policing in their careers.” 

The day started early, with each youth paired with a local hero for a fully funded shopping spree, followed by a procession of emergency vehicles to the Innisfil YMCA for breakfast, face painting, cookie decorating, a bouncy castle, and an extra special visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

While the kids mingled, a team of volunteers was busy gift-wrapping each child’s purchases, packing them in a Santa sack for each family to take home at the end of the morning.

"Holiday with a Hero is a true community effort, with over 150 volunteers giving their time Saturday morning," says the United Way.

All of the money was raised through donations from individuals and local businesses, Shelley said.  

“We are so thankful to everyone who supported Holiday with a Hero,” he added. “This is what community looks like.”

For more information on the program, click here.