Emma Peterson smiled as she rode her new bicycle around the bay of the Tyler fire station.
Emma, 8, and her family lost their house and almost all of their possessions in a fire on Sunday.
So as she, her mother, Karen Peterson, and her sister, Sydney, 12, pick up the pieces of their lives and start over, they welcomed the kindness and generosity of local firefighters.
Tyler firefighters from Stations 7 and 8 joined together to provide a pink, white and blue Huffy bicycle with streamers to Emma and a $75 Macy’s gift card for Sydney to use.
The bicycle was an extra they had from the Tyler Firefighters Toy Drive, and the firefighters contributed personal funds to buy the gift card.
“She loves to shop,” Ms. Peterson said upon receiving the gift card.
Sydney was out of town so she couldn’t be at Tyler Fire Station No. 7 on Tuesday to receive it. Emma, however, showed enough gratitude for the both of them, hugging the firefighters and speaking her words of appreciation.
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much. I love it.”
As Emma and Ms. Peterson posed for photos with the new bicycle, firefighters expressed their condolences and sorrow for the family’s loss.
Station 7 A-shift Capt. Patrick Mayo said it means a lot to the firefighters to be able to help out the family because they understand the devastation of what has happened in their life.
“It’s just a sad thing to think about, so anything like that to cheer her up is well worth it,” he said of the bike donation. “It’s nice to see her smile.”
Ms. Peterson’s mother, Rosalind Keith, and father-in-law, Jesse Peterson, accompanied her and Emma to the station.
In addition to the gifts, the firefighters gave Emma a tour of a fire truck. She heard about all the tools they use — and how they help people — and she even honked the horn.
Emma asked a lot of questions, including: Why do firefighters need axes? Are fire hoses heavy? And, has a fire truck ever gotten stuck in an ice storm?
Deputy Fire Marshal Tony Gumber said the firefighters were glad they could help the family. He said firefighters, in general, have giving hearts and feel a certain heartbreak for families that suffer loss through a fire.
“I think it’s just a natural thing that all firefighters would want to do,” he said of giving back.