S H O U T O U T : As police officers from dozens of Bergen County towns distributed toys and other presents to terminally ill, sick and needy children today, not one took note of a recipient’s skin color or nationality.
“With certain people pushing so much negativity out there, it’s wonderful to see the hearts that these men and women show,” said retired Closter Police Sgt. Donald Nicoletti, one of the driving forces behind the Bergen County PBA Toy Drive since it’s inception 26 years ago.
“It can be really heart-wrenching to see some of these little ones and their families,” Nicoletti told CLIFFVIEW PILOT after the unit completed deliveries to the M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center and the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.
“But these officers are phenomenal,” the the de factor commander of the “Santa Response Team” said.
PHOTO, TOP: Bergen County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Downing
Several veterans hung back as first-timers and other officers joined Santa in delivering presents to the youngsters and their siblings, parents and others.
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The annual visit has become one of the largest and most popular missions of mercy in the Northeast — and includes other emergency responders, family members and friends.
“This has really taken on a life of its own,” Nicoletti said, after tens of thousands of donated gifts grew into a mountain of joy at the Closter firehouse this morning.
The collection provided enough leftovers to fill Christmas wish lists for several local organizations that service needy children and their families.
A record 42 police departments participated this year. Military members from the Teaneck Armory also turned out in force once again — both to collect presents for families of soldiers overseas and to transport the deluge of gifts in four vehicles to the hospitals.
And as is the custom, personal wish lists were also filled for local families in need.
Knocking off after a day that traced the sun’s rise and descent, many of the participants turned for home both physically and emotionally spent.
Yet they agreed they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
That includes a smiling Nicoletti.
“The SRT strikes again,” he said.
The CLIFFVIEW PILOT PHOTO TEAM: Closter Police Detective Sgt. Vincent Aiello, Fair Lawn Police Officer Michael O’Brien, Bergen County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Downing
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