With help from some angels, Santa Claus made the borough’s sick children’s spirits much brighter this holiday season.
For over a decade, Al’s Angels’ mission has been to provide assistance to children and families suffering the hardships from life-threatening illnesses or poverty.
The Fairfield, CT based non-profit organization regularly visits the borough with annual stops at venues such as St. Barnabas Hospital and Union Community Health Center.
On Tuesday, December 16, Old Saint Nick and Al’s Angels visited pediatric patients staying at these two locations and distributed toys to the children.
According to Al DiGuido, the non-profit delivered over 200 gifts to children in Union Community Center earlier in the day before arriving at St. Barnabas for the afternoon festivities. Over 100 presents were given out at the hospital.
Roars of holiday cheer could be heard reverberating through the clinic as Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman greeted children and their families waiting in an adjacent room decorated with yuletide mainstays, including a fully adorned Christmas tree.
The duo proceeded to lead the eager youngsters and their families into a room set up as a winter wonderland; housing many wrapped gifts for the borough’s good boys and girls.
Santa greeted each youngster and had them sit on his lap while speaking with them individually.
Nearby, a jolly Frosty danced and gave out hugs as Kris Kringle hand delivered presents while wishing them a Merry Christmas.
“I had an appointment today and I heard about this event they were having for Christmas and I decided to bring my son,” explained Joel Stella. “He’s really excited to see Santa today.”
“I feel really happy to be here and see people taking the time to celebrate Christmas with the kids inside the clinic,” expressed Keila Algarin. “I am so proud to be here and my daughter, Raushelee Villa-Fana, is very excited because it is her first time here.”
The staff at St. Barnabas Hospital shared in the holiday spirit by wearing their seasonal best and some even dressed as elves.
“Al DiGuido has been donating to St. Barnabas for these last six years and has given so many presents to children,” Patricia Belair, senior vice president said. “He’s very generous and absolutely amazing.”
“I’ve been here a few years and the kids and families really look forward to this,” divulged Lisette Robledo, MD pediatrics. “Our families certainly appreciate these gifts and for some, it might be their only gifts for the holiday. It’s a great opportunity to share with them during this season.”
Robledo added after the event, Santa and Frosty traveled downstairs to distribute gifts to the pediatric patients seeing their doctors, so they can also share in the season of giving.
“This is the cumulation of a year’s work of fund raising so we can do what it is we have done here today,” explained DiGuido. “We’re trying to set an example to those of who are more blessed than others to help have them help out the less fortunate.”
About 20 years ago, DiGuido attended an event in New Jersey and learned about children battling cancer and the toll it took on the children’s families and their finances.
“It was that night that I felt I had to do something,” he expressed.
DiGuido reported that 3,600 families have received Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah meal bins with $100 worth of groceries from Al’s Angels.
He added that 125 of which were given to St. Barnabas each holiday. However, their work is never finished.
“We’re always looking for more angels and we can use more help,” DiGuido said.
For more information and to become involved, visit www.alsangels.org.