By Mark Steffy, Son of Edward Steffy (2011-PA)
When I was young, one of the things I always looked forward to at Christmas was my father playing Santa Claus at various Christmas parties. He had his own Santa suit, filled it out quite well. Once I was old enough to realize it was my dad in that suit, it was neat to see other kids interact with him, knowing it was my dad.
After Dad passed away in November 2011, it was difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. As we were preparing for the holiday in 2012, my mom, daughter, and I found ourselves making a last-minute trip to Park City Mall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on the Saturday before Christmas. As my daughter Gabi and I were going from store to store, she looked at me and said, “Dad, I never got to see Santa Claus.” We were rushing to finish and meet back up with Mom; I wasn’t sure we would have time. I explained to her that we were on a time schedule, but we would be passing through center court. If the line was short, we could stop and see him.
As luck would have it, when we arrived at Santa’s castle there was only one other child in line. As we waited our turn and the child in front finished and was leaving, Santa turned to Gabi and said, “Young lady, come over here. That organization on your shirt is my favorite charity.” We were both wearing our NFFF t-shirts. After my daughter gave Santa her list I asked Santa, “How do you know about the NFFF?” He paused and looked at my daughter, asked if he could break character for a moment, and introduced himself as Charles Brack from Allentown, Georgia.
Charles proceeded to tell me his story. His son, Steven Brack, was killed while responding to a fire in 2004 and was honored by the NFFF in 2005. We were in complete awe that someone actually understood where we were and helped us to move further along our path of healing. As we walked away to meet up with my mother, Gabi looked up at me and said, “It is nice to know someone gets it and understands what it is to lose someone.”