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FAO Schwarz, Uniformed Firefighters Association Shower Children Of Fallen Firefighters With Toys

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- FAO Schwarz and the Uniformed Firefighters Association helped bring holiday cheer Sunday to the children of fallen firefighters.

As CBS2's Christina Fan reported, 50 kids and their families were treated to a full day of fun.

Joy overflowed from the back of a fire engine in front of FAO Schwarz, where Santa Claus, FDNY mascot Hot Dog, and toy soldiers brought smiles to widows and their children, fulfilling a promise made to their fallen heroes

"We thank you so much for coming and being a part of this. You make our day more than we make yours," said Andrew Ansbro, president of the UFA.

For 40 years, the union has been providing smiles to families of firefighters killed while on duty. Sunday's celebration was especially meaningful to Erika Oelkers and her three daughters, who lost FDNY firefighter Tom Oelkers in May to 9/11-related cancer.

"The last nine months when my husband was sick was really difficult for them. They watched him deteriorate pretty quickly and it's hard for them to understand that their dad didn't want to leave them, but he loved his job," Erika Oelkers said.

Not only did FAO Schwarz host more than four dozen children and their families Sunday, they also provided free presents and gift certificates.

"It was amazing. It was great. It was lots of colors, lights, and filled with people doing wonderful things for us," widow Nanette Ambelas said.

Ambelas' daughters were just 5 and 8 when Lt. Matt Ambelas died responding to a high-rise fire in 2014. They said the best part of the event every year is reconnecting with other families and firefighters.

"It's like the firehouse is my second family, so I just like being around everyone," Gabriella Ambelas said.

"They never forget and it's not just now; it's all year long," Nanette Ambelas said.

Today, and every day, the department makes good on that promise.

In addition to time at FAO Schwarz, families were also treated to views of the city from the observation deck at Top of the Rock.

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