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Joliet third grader arrived at his 1st day of school in a fire truck

William Zaffino even got to pull the horn twice.

4th grader William Zaffino gets set to ride to school in the front seat of a fire truck. William won a raffle to get a ride in a fire truck to his first day of school at Eisenhower Academy in Joliet. Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Joliet.

Eight-year-old William Zaffino arrived at school with an official escort Wednesday — the Joliet Fire Department.

Angel Mutz of Joliet and mother of William, said her family attended Joliet’s Kidz Fest this year in downtown Joliet.

Attending the family friendly event, which included live entertainment, pony rides, petting farm and magic shows, is a tradition for them, Mutz said.

While there, Mutz entered William in a free contest for kids who live and attend school in Joliet: a free ride to school on a fire truck.

Mutz said William really wanted to win. But no one expected he would. And the much-anticipated phone call actually went to her voicemail, Mutz said.

“We were actually on vacation hiking through the Arcadian forest in Michigan,” Mutz said.

The family was spending time by Arcadia Dunes: The C.S. Mott Nature Preserve, Mutz said.

William’s first day of school was as third grader at Eisenhower Academy in Joliet was Wednesday. And he proudly rode up in front of all his friends in the fire truck.

4th grader William Zaffino won a raffle to get a ride in a fire truck to his first day of school at Eisenhower Academy in Joliet. Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Joliet.

The Joliet Fire Department had picked him up in front of his house at 7:30 a.m. And William was up early and ready, Mutz said.

“Now today was a whole other story,” Mutz said on Thursday.

Joliet Fire Chief Greg Blaskey said the Joliet Fire Department has offered the“Ride to School on a Fire Truck” to local schools, churches, and non-profit organizations for fundraising events for more than 15 years.

“It is a great opportunity for the fire department to support our community and provide a great experience for a child,” Blaskey said in a text message.

Priscilla Cordero, executive director of the Joliet City Center Partnership, said the contest was intended to encourage more families to attend Kidz Fest.

“We couldn’t have done it without the cooperation of the Joliet Fire Department,” Cordero said.

Mutz said William sat on the front porch waiting for the fire truck. His friends from across the street and some of the neighbors waited with him, she said.

“We live on small dead-end street, so it was very exciting,” Mutz said.

Fire battalion chief John Koch greets William Zaffino. William won a raffle to get a ride in a fire truck to his first day of school at Eisenhower Academy in Joliet. Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Joliet.

Mutz said she led the way down Washington Street to the school to help guide the fire truck into the best spot, so as not to interfere with the flow of parents dropping their kids off, she said.

“We got stuck by a double train; we all chuckled about that,” Mutz said.

Mutz said William told his friends at school that “he got to pull the horn.” He didn’t share many details about his first trip in a fire truck but sharing wasn’t necessary.

“You could tell by his smile,” Mutz said. “He had a really big smile. He was super cheesing.”

William said he pulled the horn twice and all his friends “thought it was cool” he rode a fire truck.

But he doesn’t want to be a firefighter one day. He wants to be an engineer.

“Because I like building stuff,” William said.

Mutz said she was thankful for the City Center Partnership and the Joliet Fire Department for giving William such a great experience on his first day of school.

“William’s a good kid, and I’m glad he won,” Mutz said. “It’s much appreciated.”

Fire battalion chief John Koch takes a photo of William Zaffino with his family in front of the fire truck. William won a raffle to get a ride in a fire truck to his first day of school at Eisenhower Academy in Joliet. Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Joliet.