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Firefighters help pay it forward by adopting six struggling families in valley

Santa didn’t need a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer Friday night to bring cheer to six struggling Las Vegas families. Instead, he made a grand entrance and surprise visit on a fire engine at Las Vegas Fire Rescue Station 7 in Summerlin.

It was all part of an effort by the men and women of Station 7 and members from the community to make the season a little brighter for the families.

The Adopt A Family Project culminated with Friday night’s holiday celebration. The volunteers provided presents to families, served them dinner donated by John Mull’s Meats and Jason’s Deli, and gave kids some quality time with Santa.

Firefighter Rikk Reff has been helping families around the holidays on his own for six years. Local family therapist Donna Wilburn typically recommends a struggling family that she works with to Reff every year. He uses his own money to provide for that family.

This year, Reff had extra resources and decided to involve more members of the community in order to provide for multiple families.

The event was able to help six families including 32 kids. The station partnered with Girl Scouts of America, Paul Mitchell Salon, Operation Fire Heat, local physicians and many others to fix up family vehicles, pay utility bills, supply Christmas trees, provide makeovers to moms, and give gift cards and meal packages for families to cook their own Christmas dinner.

One of the recipients Estrella, a mother of four children, is grateful for the assistance. She decided to pay it forward to another single mom she knows from her kids’ school, by writing a letter to Walker Furniture, asking the store to donate to the Chatman family. They are awaiting a response.

“It’s amazing to me because I have a big heart so I was the kind of person who was like, ‘I know my family needs it, but what about this other family?,” she said.

She also helped get Jackallynn Chatman and her four children involved in the event. Chatman’s husband was in the military and died in a motorcycle accident in 2004. Friday’s event held special meaning because it fell on her husband’s birthday, said Chatman, whose husband died in a motorcycle accident in 2004. Having the celebration at a fire station was especially cool, she said, because her 8-year-old son wants to be a firefighter.

“I am just blessed to be able to be here. It’s kind of hard being a single mother, and it’s just a blessing,” Chatman said,

Contact Lawren Linehan at llinehan@reviewjournal.com or at 702-383-0381. Find her on Twitter: @lawrenlinehan.

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