Photos: Baby left at station in 2006 reunited with firefighter

Crews dedicated a new fire truck named after 10-year-old Colleen during a ceremony at the department

By Martin E. Comas
Orlando Sentinel

TAVARES, Fla. — Dan Miller, then a Lake County Fire Rescue lieutenant, had just finished eating a chicken parmesan dinner with fellow firefighters July 1, 2006, when a woman drove up to the Four Corners fire station.

She got out of the car and handed Miller a newborn girl wearing a pink hat and swaddled in a yellow blanket as the infant’s mother sat in the passenger seat of the car. The women then drove off.

That day-old infant has grown into 10-year-old Colleen, a healthy fifth-grader at Bethune Academy in Haines City. She enjoys gymnastics, pop music and the color turquoise.

Posted by Lake County Fire Rescue - Official on Friday, March 31, 2017

On Friday, she smiled broadly as Lake firefighters — including Miller, now an EMS battalion chief — dedicated a new fire truck named after her during a ceremony at Fire Station 112 off County Road 474, where she was brought more than a decade ago.

“This is cool,” Colleen said after sitting inside the bright red pumper truck with her name emblazoned on the driver’s-side door. “I like it.”

Because of privacy concerns, the couple who adopted Colleen just two weeks after she was brought to the fire station wouldn’t release their full names.

At the dedication, Miller said he is pleased that the infant who was sleeping soundly when he first saw her is now living a happy life.

“I have to tell you: I was nervous because this is the first time I’ve met her since that night,” he said. “I am so glad to see that she is with a loving family. … When she was brought here, she was sleeping like she didn’t have a care in the world.”

Posted by Lake County Fire Rescue - Official on Friday, March 31, 2017

At the time, Colleen was the 45th infant left in Florida since the state’s safe-haven law took effect in 2000. The law allows parents to anonymously leave infants up to 7 days old with an employee at a place staffed full time with trained personnel, such as at a fire station, hospital or law-enforcement office, without fear of prosecution.

Since 2000, 253 infants have been brought to “safe haven” places, including six so far this year.

Miller recalled how he and his fellow firefighters took the baby they first called Iris. She was strapped in a car seat with two bottles of formula and wearing matching socks.

The woman who handed the baby to Miller had called the station a couple of hours earlier to arrange the drop off.

Miller and his colleagues checked her breathing and heartbeat. But when one of the firefighters started to change her diaper, she started crying.

Posted by Lake County Fire Rescue - Official on Friday, March 31, 2017

Moments later, Baby Iris was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando where she received a clean bill of health. She was then placed with A Chosen Child, an Orlando adoption center in Orlando.

Two weeks later, Baby Iris was handed to her new parents, James and Lara, both 34 and living in Davenport at the time. They named her Colleen and were granted full legal custody Oct. 31, 2006.

“That’s why we celebrate Halloween every year,” Lara said with a laugh. “But she is very well loved. She’s our daughter.”

At home, Colleen — who aspires to become a veterinarian — loves to read books about science and play with her dog, Cookie, and cat, Bell.

Nearly every holiday season, Colleen has mailed photos of herself and a greeting card to Miller and the firefighters at Fire Station 112.

During the ceremony unveiling the new fire truck, she was given a bouquet of flowers and a gray long-sleeved shirt with the words “Lake County Fire Rescue” on the back. She also was given a lofty ride on the bucket of the tower firetruck.

“Oh and I forgot to tell you, Colleen: You have 213 brothers and sisters now,” Lake County Fire Chief Jim Dickerson said during the ceremony, in reference to the number of county firefighters.

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