A Niceville High School sophomore is raising money to brighten the holidays for children of fallen firefighters.

NICEVILLE — A local teenager is gearing up to spread holiday cheer to children of fallen firefighters.


Roughly four years after a school project grew into an annual effort, Troy Santner, a 15-year-old sophomore at Niceville High School, is in the midst of a fundraiser to benefit kids like him.


In 2005, his father Thomas J. Santner died in the line of duty. At the time, he was chief of the North Bay Fire District.


"Fire departments usually recognize families who lose people, but not all of them," said Troy, who added that he hoped to reach 400 kids this year. "I’m hoping that I can get enough support to be able to continue this and make it more of a national thing."


For his mom, Janet Santner, Troy’s mission is a direct reflection of his father. She shared that Christmas was always his favorite time of year, and that he often raised money to help less-fortunate families.


"Troy has only ever heard stories about his father because he was so young (when he died)," Janet said, adding that each kid Troy’s foundation helps receives a stocking, ornament and stuffed animal. "That’s just what our family does."


While Troy has ideas to eventually send different types of presents, his current focus is on expanding his foundation’s footprint. Looking ahead, he hoped to reach more kids each year.


"I would like to do bigger and better things ... but I mostly want to get it across to more people instead of bigger gifts," he said.


The Troy Santner National Children of Fallen Firefighters Fund works in association with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.


According to Beverly Donlon, director of family programs for the national foundation, programs like Troy’s fund are "kind stepping stone(s)" that create life-long connections for children in need.


"It truly is beneficial to let families know that others are thinking of them and remembering their firefighters," she wrote in an email. "Through sharing stories (and) through peer support, they find strength from each other."


As of Sunday, Troy had raised about $400 out of his $8,000 goal, which has a deadline of the first weekend in December.


To donate, visit his GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/f/troysantnerchildrenoffallenfirefighters2019 or the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s website.