SPECIAL REPORT : Twenty Moonachie and Little Ferry families battered by Hurricane Sandy floodwaters had a joyous Christmas party tonight — with toys (lots of ‘em), food and other goodies — organized and paid for by Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino and his wife and members of PBA Local #134.
Union members were out in force, along with the Saudinos, the sheriff’s administrative staff and plenty of other volunteers who together made holiday magic at the Hasbrouck Heights Elks Club.
Amid the hot and cold buffet, a surprise visitor crashed the party, as children screamed and laughed.
Soon, they were taking turns sitting on Santa’s lap, sometimes two and three at a time.
Saudino even grabbed a seat.
“With everything that’s going on in the world, and all these people went through, to see the smiles is just amazing,” the sheriff told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , as his officers called out the names of families, one at a time, who then went up to collect their gifts.
As the young teens, grade school kids and toddlers toted their goodies to their tables, the sheriff handed parents Christmas cards.
Inside each was a personal gift from him and Gina Saudino, a staffer privately told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
All families were nominated by their local police departments and then selected by random lottery.
“We asked for those who got hit the worst,” said Richard Moriarty, Saudino’s administrative services director.
Each family then received a letter from Santa asking what the youngsters wanted.
“We did our best to get just about everything on the wish lists,” Moriarty told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Around him, sheriff’s officers played with the kids, helped distribute the presents and jokingly served as Santa’s bouncers when a horde of youngsters suddenly rushed the man in the red suit.
Clowns on hand painted the youngsters faces and made balloon animals and hats for them.
Adults gathered around the Elks Club’s large round tables, took lots of cellphone photos of their children with Santa (one woman used a tablet) and thanked the officers for their kindness and generosity.
Dante’s Restaurant provided the food, while one of the officers’ wives surprised everyone with a homemade cake (see photo).
Although the youngsters were all caught up in playing with their gifts, Santa’s getaway was anything but smooth.
As he tried to slip out, a few little ones dashed over for one last hug.
Then, like that, he was gone.
(OK, he went downstairs to change. But why spoil it?)
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