S H O U T O U T: One of the largest toy drives in the Northeast is under way again, and a record 40 Bergen County police agencies hope their enormous “Santa Response Team” will build the biggest mountain of presents ever.
Now into its 26th year, the PBA Toy Drive is an act of charity that many look forward to each year.
After weeks of collecting presents large and small, officers from all of the participating departments will truck them to the Closter firehouse. Military members also come up from the Teaneck Armory to collect presents for families of soldiers overseas.
Officers and others at the firehouse then sort the massive piles according to age and sex.
Many of the presents are then packed into a bus and a UHaul and taken to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center and Englewood Medical Center, where they’ll be delivered by – who else? – Santa Claus.
Organizers are hoping other celebrities and popular athletes will show up, as in the past, to surprise the youngsters.
Toys also will be delivered to various other locations in the area.
Some families sponsor others — for instance, when a family is displaced by a fire or flood or someone gets sick or loses a job. Police produce a list, and a generous family buys all the presents for their neighbors in need.
The story of a man who sold everything because his baby girl had brain cancer touched now-retired Closter Sgt. Don Nicoletti, one of the driving forces behind the program since its inception. Police have been helping the family, including the girl’s older sister, for several years.
Another family had two children with a rare immune disorder. The officers give to the family every year.
The program originally targeted impoverished areas when Nicoletti and his department’s PBA launched it, but the poor economy has created a greater need in the valleys, as well.
It’s been expanded through the years — for instance, to include children in Newtown, CT, following a mass shooting there, and at the Jersey Shore and various other points in New Jersey struck by Hurricane Sandy.
“What makes it so successful is that it never comes back to one town,” Nicoletti said. “It has grown because of the help of so many men and women who contribute to it.”
The drive attracts dozens of officers of all ranks, firefighters and other emergency responders and their families.
“It really makes the holidays feel right,” said one of them, Westwood Police Officer Jim Quaglino.
The organizers ask everyone who can to drop off an unwrapped present or more at any of the police departments listed below or to participating local stores and high schools. Boxes with flyers are being placed in dozens of locations.
It’s not just about Christmas, either. What most people don’t know: Other toys go into reserve to be distributed to Tomorrow’s Children kids who come into the hospital throughout the year.
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- A FATHER WRITES: “Tomorrow’s Children” held a different meaning for the grieving father who sobbed this afternoon as he told the veteran police officer at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital that his young son will die five days short of Christmas. READ MORE….
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Bergen County Sheriff
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