Santa visits children at Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan while riding fire truck

Sonia Rincón Image
Thursday, December 8, 2022
Santa spreads joy to kids at Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan
Santa paid a special visit to children at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan while riding an FDNY fire truck Wednesday night. Sonia Rincon has the story.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Santa is normally used to riding a sleigh, but on Wednesday night, he made a special appearance at a Ronald McDonald House in New York City riding in a fire truck to the lift the spirits of children who could use a smile.

When Santa drops by a Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan this time each year, he now trades in his reindeer and sleigh for an FDNY truck with a very long ladder.

It's been this way since 2020 to keep children with delicate immune systems safe, but still get up close.

"Now this has become our new tradition, where Santa is taking a special ride up in the bucket truck and seeing all the kids in their rooms," said Caitlin Conklin of Ronald McDonald House.

"We call it the miracle on 73rd Street, because we didn't think we'd be able to do it," NYPD Officer PJ Conley said. "But we figured out a way to do it and have Santa interact with kids from outside."

Santa's visit at this temporary home in New York for kids all over the world getting medical treatment, has been coordinated by the NYPD and FDNY for more than 30 years. He's welcomed with lights and Christmas carols.

But this change for the children's safety in the last three years, has actually added some exciting. After all, what child doesn't love a fire truck?

ALSO READ | 7 On Your Side's Holiday Shopping Guide

Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side have tips and advice to save money this holiday shopping season.

"I'm just speechless about all of this. It's just amazing," said 11-year-old Rory O'Neal, who is recovering from surgery.

The Ronald McDonald House traditionally supports the whole family of the young patients, giving parents and siblings a place to stay too.

For a lot of families, it'll be their first Christmas away from home.

"What a beautiful surprise. And I didn't realize how the community has just come together so we can experience this," mom Nga LeMoine.

The 19th Precinct officers and Engine 44 firefighters are Santa's elves for the evening, delivering presents and money they've collected.

MORE NEWS | Lincoln Square tree lit up for holiday season

The 2022 lighting of the Lincoln Square holiday tree took place Monday night with help from WABC's Nina Pineda.

O'Neal will hopefully be cleared to go home to Tennessee in a couple of days but he and his dad, who have been staying here, have met families who need longer stays through the holidays.

"For Ronald McDonald House and NYPD and FDNY to put something together like this, and go up to those windows where those kids really can't have social contact, so that can get a little spirit of the holidays, that's incredible," Rory O'Neal's dad Shaun O'Neal said.

"They're going through some hard times and even the mom and dad are going through some hard times and if they see their child just smiling for a moment, it's worth it," FDNY Lt. Bobby Jones said.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More Manhattan news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.