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Fair Lawn Brings Single Mom With Rare Disease Magical Christmas Surprise

Fair Lawn Human Services Coordinated Liz Maresca as Santa's Helper hugs Nicole DeFontes, best friend Kristine Ligierri looks on.
Fair Lawn Human Services Coordinated Liz Maresca as Santa's Helper hugs Nicole DeFontes, best friend Kristine Ligierri looks on. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Carolers sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and other holiday favorites in DeFontes' living room.
Carolers sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and other holiday favorites in DeFontes' living room. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Melissa and Matthew unwrap new iPads from Santa Boone -- Ex-Detective David Boone. Mayor John Cosgrove looks on from behind.
Melissa and Matthew unwrap new iPads from Santa Boone -- Ex-Detective David Boone. Mayor John Cosgrove looks on from behind. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Officers and Santa wait outside before heading to Christmas on Vanore.
Officers and Santa wait outside before heading to Christmas on Vanore. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Santa hands out candy canes at Christmas on Vanore.
Santa hands out candy canes at Christmas on Vanore. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Baby Jackson, 2, all grown up.
Baby Jackson, 2, all grown up. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

FAIR LAWN, N.J. — Nicole DeFontes of Fair Lawn was all ready to head to the mall Thursday night.

But Santa and his helpers had other plans.

Just as she was about to leave the house, DeFontes, her two children and mom heard the wails of sirens from a fire truck and several police cars racing down her block.

They stopped just outside her home.

Suddenly, the sirens ceased and dozens of carolers dressed as elves, along with police officers, council members and "Santa" himself began walking toward her door.

That's when DeFontes realized that she, her two kids and her mom were this year's Santa Boone recipient.

"It's just amazing," said the single mom of two, who since May has suffered five strokes and is without the health insurance she needs to receive proper treatment.

"Mostly for my kids," she continued, looking at her two children, Melissa, a 5th grader, and Matthew, a 9th grader, standing by her side.

"They've had a really hard year and they've been very strong. This is showing them what selfless, wonderful people are about."

In its seventh year, Santa Boone is a tradition in which retired Fair Lawn Detective David Boone dresses up as Santa Claus, and surprises a local family in need with gifts -- providing a Christmastime escape from their struggles.

Everyone gathered in DeFontes' living room as Matthew and Melissa unwrapped two early Christmas presents -- brand new iPads.

The event is organized by Human Services Coordinator Liz Maresca, who -- dressed as Santa's helper -- took turns hugging each family member.

"It's a blessing and a curse to do this job, because you have to pick and choose from different families," Maresca told Daily Voice before the event from inside Borough Hall.

"What stuck out about Nicole is that her kids are old enough to know what's going on, and her mom is sick -- just the gravity of the situation is what caught me."

Last year's Santa Boone family -- the Walsh's -- waited outside with the fire engines, as baby Jackson, 2, now in remission from cancer, greeted visitors and explored the fire truck.

As it turns out, Baby Jackson is related to DeFontes -- it's his aunt's long-lost cousin.

"It's nice to pass the tradition on to another family," said Jackson's mom, Tara Walsh.

"And because Nicole is Jackson's cousin, he'll get to appreciate it a little more."

Once Melissa and Matthew finished unwrapping their new iPads, everyone piled back into the rescue vehicles for a celebration at Christmas on Vanore , where more community members were waiting.

"It's such a special treat for the family in need, and a wonderful way for people to see how Fair Lawn takes care of its own," Council member Lisa Swain told Daily Voice.

"Santa Boone kicks off the holiday season the right way," Deputy Mayor Kurt Peluso added. "By giving back."

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