PATERSON, N.J. — What started as a way to raise money for the Paterson Fire Department's youth Christmas party in 2012 has become an annual holiday tradition for Firefighter Beth Fournier.
Fournier, of Pequannock, is selling stuffed elephants, "Eduardo," for $20 to benefit the March of Dimes — an organization dedicated to fighting preventable preterm births.
People also have the option of donating the stuffed animal for Fournier to deliver on Christmas Eve to patients in the St. Joseph's Children's Hospital and Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.
Fournier, also the PFD's union treasurer, chooses a different beneficiary close to her heart each year.
"My son goes to school with two boys who were premies," said Fournier, an Avon Foundation representative, "and their family is an ambassador family for the March of Dimes."
Fournier's husband and 30-year volunteer firefighter, George Fournier, says he's able to keep calm and unemotional while working an emergency but in the hospital, it's a different ballgame.
"It is always so hard to keep from tearing-up when we’re there," he said. "When we are here trying to cheer up these hurt and scared kids it’s tough to keep smiling — but it’s all worth it."
Funds from the 2013 fundraiser supported the Paterson Fire Association's (PFA) Christmas Party for underprivileged kids in Paterson. Part of the funds this year helps that event as well.
Union VP Louis Vega and helped deliver the animals that year.
Fournier donated last year's proceeds to Paterson Firefighter Grenier Alemany, whose wife, Joanna, was left with a shattered pelvis after being pinned between two shuttle busses at a Chester farm. The couple's toddler has had more than a dozen heart surgeries.
She's been delivering the donated stuffed animals to local hospitals in secrecy because publicity isn't Fournier's goal, she said.
"My goal every year is to help however many organizations I can," Fournier said, "and to also make all the sick children smile during the holidays."
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