SAN DIEGO — The Burn Institute hosted dozens of burn survivors and their families for a holiday party at San Diego Fire and Rescue Station 45 Saturday.

The event was filled with activities for children, a barbeque lunch cooked by the Escondido Fire Department and even Santa Claus! The jolly fellow ditched the sleigh and came riding in on a fire truck to take photos with the kids and collect their Christmas lists.

“We are so honored to be able to open our doors to the burn institute and all the burn survivors and their families,” San Diego Fire and Rescue Chief Colin Stowell said. “A lot of us have such strong ties to these burn survivors. We see them on the worst day of their lives, treat their injuries, develop that bond and to be able to see them recover, transition and just be able to enjoy all the things all the other kids get to enjoy is just so special.”

“It’s a great organization and they really helped me out when I was in the hospital and having a hard time,” Michael Matamala, a burn survivor, said.

He was burned as a child when hot coffee spilled on his leg and the Burn Institute helped him through that time. As a survivor of ten years, he is now giving back.

“When I saw a mentor helping me out, I just thought they were really cool and I just want to provide a similar experience that I had when I was a kid to other kids that I see, because I see myself in them,” Matamala said.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria also spoke at the event and showed his support for the long-standing partnership with the Burn Institute and the city.

“We all know that when you have a tough year like all of us have had, it does color the holiday season and we want people to have wonderful holiday seasons, particularly children who have been affected by a burn,” Gloria said.