Morton Grove firefighters help local boy celebrate early Christmas
Four-year-old Daniel Kotlyar drives his car around the front yard after receiving it from members of the Morton Grove Fire Department. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:07AM
MORTON GROVE — Firefighters got a chance to play Santa Claus Saturday when they delivered a drivable electric car to a 4-year-old village boy who is fighting Leukemia.
Standing outside his house, Daniel Kotlyar jumped up and down Saturday evening as firefighters pulled up in a caravan of fire trucks and began to unload his car from the back of a pickup.
Seconds later he was in the car and zipping up and down the sidewalk and round his yard, the whole area lit up by spotlights from the fire trucks parked in the street.
Delivery of the car capped a day of Christmas activities provided by Operation North Pole, a Des Plaines-based organization that provides gifts, a train ride and party to area children with serious illnesses.
The day included a trip on a train made up like the one in the film “Polar Express” and a party at the Donald L. Stevens Convention Center in Rosemont.
“It was amazing,” said Paul Kotlyar, Daniel’s father, as he watched his son, his face still painted from the earlier party, drive around the yard in the new car.
“We’re very appreciative. Everything was wonderful,” he said.
Paul Kotlyar said the car, patterned after one from the movie “Cars,” will replace a hand-me-down Daniel received from a family member. The car was one of the gifts Daniel had requested, said firefighter Joe Fasolo, who organized the event with the Morton Grove Fire Department.
Fasolo said he learned about Operation North Pole from someone he know who works at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.
“I’ve done a couple of other projects with her,” he said. “They try to give the kids a nice Christmas.”
Carmen Schmidt, a “spokes-elf” for Operation North Pole, said thousands of dollars were collected throughout the year to fulfill the Christmas wish lists of children struggling with critical illness and their siblings.
“The daily care of a child with serious medical needs is emotionally and financially overwhelming for families,” she said. “The volunteer organization of ONP offers these families a day free of cares and worries.”
This year 60 families participated in the event.
The day began with breakfast at the Stevens convention center, followed by a roundtrip ride on the train to Crystal Lake and back to Rosemont where the children were treated to a party and were given most of their gifts.
This year the exteriors of two Metra train cars and a partial interior were wrapped to look like Santa’s workshop, Schmidt said.
Because of its size, the car was delivered separately, Fasolo said.
As Daniel sped along the sidewalk, firefighter Larry Brandt assured Paul Kotlyar that the vehicle was safe, despite the bright red color and flames along the sides.
“It has a top speed of 3 1/2 mph,” he said. “We hope he has a merry Christmas.”
Paul Kotlyar said the staff at Lutheran General, where Daniel is treated, got the family involved in the program.
“They do a lot for sick kids,” he said. “They’re great at giving the kids a smile.”
Operation North Pole is an all-volunteer, community based, nonprofit public charity. The mission is to provide one day of fun and fantasy during the holiday season for Chicago area families who are battling the emotional as well as the financial stress of dealing with life threatening or terminal illness of one or more of their children.
For more information on the organization visit the web site at http://operationnorthpole.org.