Lines are never good. But these lines are particularly bad. You will not find them in toy stores or in malls. These lines are the pathways carved by unimaginable agony, yet tell a story of unceasing hope and incredible faith. These are the lines that map the faces of parents afflicted with the anguish of watching over, and caring for, their seriously ill children. Many of whom are dying.
Now in its 24th year, the Santa Response Team, organized by Closter police sergeant Don Nicoletti and consisting of PBA members from all over North Jersey, has brought Santa to Hackensack University Medical Center's Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital and Tomorrows Children to deliver Christmas to the children and families who occupy every pediatric floor, from oncology to recovery.
The sight of Santa and his team of law enforcement helpers, brought one young father to tears. Behind his shoulder lay his infant son in a hospital crib unaware of his first, and last, Christmas.
"He won't make it through the night," he somehow managed to explain through his tears. "They're taking him off life support today."
"I thought he'd never live to see Santa," he wept. "But here's Santa. This is a Christmas miracle."
Santa learned upon walking into one room to deliver toys that the four-year old boy laying in the bed did not speak English. The boy's tired little eyes lit up as he lifted his head as best he could from his wrinkled pillow to listen as Santa spoke to him in Spanish.
In addition to delivering to hospitals and shelters, The Santa Response Team also helps families in need. Local PBA's often receive requests from families with special needs and their goal is to fulfill those wish lists.
One story involves a family of children now living in Northvale. Originally from Bergen County, they moved to Florida with their mother when their parents divorced. While in Florida, their mother became ill and died. While driving down to bring his children back home to New Jersey, their father was involved in a fatal car accident. The children are now living with their grandparents in Northvale.
Nicoletti said that the family came to the firehouse where the PBA's took care of every want on their wish list and then some.
By all accounts, Nicoletti said that this is the most successful year for toy donations. Participating PBA's hold local toy drives and deliver their collections to Closter where the Santa Response Team, along with an army of cops and volunteers, unload police cars, vans, trailers, and trucks and sort through all of the toys to bag them, load them onto more trucks and trailers and begin the process of delivering them.
Toys are also being delivered to victims of Hurricane Sandy in Moonachie, Little Ferry, Toms River and Seaside Heights. The Wounded Warrior Project will also be receiving a delivery from the Santa Response Team.
On Friday, Nicoletti and members of the Santa Response Team are taking a truck up to where the Chief of Police has invited them to drop off toys for the families who lost children in the horrific school shooting massacre.
"The last thing on the minds of those families is Christmas shopping," Nicoletti said. "But many of them have other children. So, we're dropping off a big truck load of donated toys so they can do their shopping for free."
The following PBA's participated in this year's toy drive:
- Englewood Cliffs
- Franklin Lakes
- Fort Lee
- Harrington Park
- New Milford
- Old Tappan
- Park Ridge
- River Vale
- Rochelle Park
- Saddle Brook
- Washington Township
- Woodcliff Lake
- Bergen County Sheriff's Department
Businesses that donated their services to feed, transport the toys and keep the excitement high as the volunteers sorted through the thousands of toys today include:
Johnny Meatballs and Frankie Antipasto, Chef Bob Catering, Molly's Catering, Mr. Cupcake, Cupcake Cutie, Peters Transportation, Alpine Limo Service and DJ John Micalizzi.