By George Slaughter
Santa Claus made an appearance at Thursday’s annual lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree at City Hall. On Saturday, a beautiful day weather-wise, he made a return visit to Katy, making two more appearances.
The first was at the inaugural Pancakes with Santa, held Saturday morning at the Katy Fire Station, 1417 Avenue D. The second was at the annual Katy Old Fashioned Christmas, held downtown.
Proceeds from the breakfast will be used to sponsor a Katy Independent School District student attend EMT school, the fire academy, or paramedic school.
The Katy Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 5192, organized the breakfast. Harry Haynes, a Katy firefighter and association president, credited Trey Lee, a fellow firefighter and association vide president, with the idea. Haynes said Lee brought the idea with him from his time in another fire department.
Haynes said that organizing and staging the breakfast required help from many people and sponsors, such as HEB, which provided the food.
“The cost of attending these schools have risen drastically,” Lee said. “They’ve become a little more expensive. There’s also a decline in paramedics in our area.”
Lee said that while it wasn’t known if the decline in paramedics was due to the increased tuition, the associated wanted to help. Funds raised this year will help one student, but the hope is that as the event becomes an annual tradition, more money will be raised and more students will be supported as they pursue their professional training.
Lee and Haynes said that approximately 60,000 people learned of Saturday’s event through social media, and received approximately 3,500 responses indicating interest in attending. No precise attendance count was immediately available, but Fire Chief Russell Wilson said that judging from the crowd, he expected the Pancakes with Santa would become an annual event.
“There was a lot of effort, pounding the pavement, and getting sponsors,” Wilson said. “They did this. It has nothing to do with me. I basically just said, go for it, you’re welcome to use the station. So, all of this is their teamwork. This has been going on for weeks. It’s very impressive, to say the least.”
Saturday’s breakfast also gave the association the chance to promote two other causes. The first is support of the Firefighter Cancer Support Center, to which the association presented a check. Wilson said firefighters are at higher risk for cancer because they are exposed to dangerous chemicals and smoke when fighting fires. Lisa Wilson, the chief’s wife, worked with the association to raise the money for the donation.
Haynes and Lee also said the association has partnered with Katy Elementary School to sponsor a giving tree to support 10 students who need food and clothing at Christmas.
For more information, the association welcomes inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org or through its Facebook page.
Later on Saturday, a good-sized crowd, perhaps a thousand or so, took advantage of the shopping opportunities Saturday at the Old Fashioned Christmas event.