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Norwalk Fire Department nets $5,500 in annual fundraiser

Francesca Zullo, 4, beams at being near to Santa Claus last week at Jeff and Jeanine DeRosa’s East Norwalk home.

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – It wasn’t Christmas yet, but little Francesca Zullo wasn’t surprised to see Santa arrive last week – he has come to her East Norwalk neighborhood every year of her 4-year-old life.

Santa arrived on a fire truck, as always, a big hit for the children at Jeff and Jeanine DeRosa’s home on Pine Hill Avenue Extension. Firefighters ignored the fire burning in the driveway (a fire pit for those who wanted to warm their hands on the cold evening) and proceeded to hand out gifts.

It’s a 10-year tradition for the neighborhood. The kids took their gifts inside, inspecting them next to the big Christmas tree in the living room. Adults socialized, visiting the buffet in the kitchen.

It was the last night of the Norwalk Fire Department’s annual fundraiser, which did “very well,” according to one of its organizers.

The three-night fundraiser netted $5,500, firefighter Dennis Dustin said. Half of that goes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association; half goes to Hurricane Sandy victims, he said.

The department made about 80 stops during the fundraiser. Parents paid $20 for the first gift and $10 for each additional gift.

Firefighter Michael Cripps, Firefighter Brandon Adams (co-organizer of the drive) and Lt. Scott Rywolt each got to spend a night as the bearded wonder.

“It’s a lot of work, but seeing all the kids’ happy faces make it worthwhile,” Dustin said. “We have our pretty regular stops each year and they get pretty excited for it.”

Jeff Derosa said it was great to have a fundraiser like that in Norwalk.

“It’s Christmas,” he said, with a smile. “It’s kids. It’s Santa Claus.”

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