KINGMAN - It wasn't Santa's sleigh but rather a Golden Valley fire truck that brought holiday cheer to a valley family this Christmas.
Seven-year-old Katelynn Voltz and her sister Krissy, 4, were the first to see the fire truck with its lights flashing making its way down the rain soaked road to the family's home in Golden Valley on Christmas Day. The girl's grandmother, Diane Swaim, knew someone was coming to visit the family that day, but she certainly wasn't expecting the fire department.
Swaim and her husband, Greg, have been serving as de facto parents of sorts for Katelynn and Krissy after the girls' mother, Greg's daughter, fell ill shortly after moving to the valley from Indiana in November 2008. Charity Voltz nearly died after suffering a grand mal seizure in April 2009, although it would be 18 months of tests and hospitalizations before doctors knew what was wrong.
At the same time she was dealing with her illness, the young mother was going through a divorce and Krissy was diagnosed with autism.
Charity's doctors formally diagnosed her with a collapsed palate this March, which was causing her to get only 30 percent of the oxygen she should have been getting. A tracheostomy has brought that percentage up to 98, but it has left her housebound and susceptible to infections.
Greg and Diane live with the family and since Charity's illness have assumed the roles of mom and dad. Both hold part time jobs, but after Greg took a leave of absence after an allergic reaction to latex at his job just after Thanksgiving, finances for Christmas gifts for the girls looked especially bleak.
The family receives services for the girls from Mohave Mental Health, which partners with MIKID (Mentally Ill Kids In Distress) to provide support in dealing with Krissy's autism. Krissy is almost 5, but acts more like a 2-year-old, her family said. She has a domineering, independent personality, but is only now just learning to talk and be potty trained. By contrast, her older sister Katelynn is more shy and reserved, in part because of her fear for her mother's well being, Diane said.
MIKID serves a number of families around the state, including 17 in Golden Valley and Kingman. The group has a working relationship with the Golden Valley Fire Department, which last month raised more than $1,800 for the organization.
MIKID contacted the department and arrangements were made for the firefighters to visit the family in the fire truck, minus the reindeer. The girls' great-grandfather, Walter Carr, said the girl's were overwhelmed by the gifts, which included developmentally geared toys for Krissy.
The family's church, the Boulder Springs ward of the Church of Latter Days Saints, also pitched in, providing the family with a Christmas dinner and an additional four boxes of toys and clothing.
"The one thing Katelynn really wanted was a new pair of shoes," Carr said. "She'd worn the others down on the bottom and sides."
Clothes are fine, but Katelynn said her favorite gift was a toy cash register. The firefighters' visit may have also influenced what she wants to be when she grows up. She used to want to be a police officer. Now she wants to be a firefighter.
Golden Valley Fire Captain Dave Martin said he was glad he and his fellow firefighters could make a difference.
"It was beautiful," he said. "It was nice to see the kids' faces light up like that when you give them presents."
The family says they were blown away by the generosity of their church and fire department and said it reinforces their sense of community.
"We're very grateful for all the wonderful help we've gotten this season," Diane said. "Without them, we don't know what we would have done. It's nice to know there are people out there who care and it really shows."