“He’s magical,” three-year old Rebecca whispered to her mother when Santa Claus handed her a Barbie Princess doll as she sat cradled in her mother’s arms in Holy Name Medical Center.
“Rebecca loves princesses,” her mother said overcome with emotion that unexpected kindness brings.
“I am a princess,” Rebecca confidently countered.
This was just one of the stops that Santa made last week with his very special helpers--Bergen County Chiefs of Police and Sheriff Michael Saudino, former chief of the Emerson police department and past president of the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association.
New Milford Chief Frank Papapietro said that this annual tradition has been going on long before he assumed the role of chief. It is also the one day of the year that he and the other chiefs look forward to.
“When you visit some of the sick children and look at their moms--hair pulled back, dressed in sweats, eyes exhausted by worry--it puts things into perspective,” Papapietro said.
Ret. Chief Jack Murphy from Englewood Cliffs, one of the founding members of this annual tradition, led the way as Santa and the Chiefs went from hospital to hospital handing out Barbie dolls, race cars, footballs, Lego sets, trucks and games--Santa’s bottomless bag held something special for every child. The group grew as more chiefs arrived at every hospital stop.
It is not often that the public gets a glimpse of the men behind the gold badges, but these men spent considerable time with the parents of an infant confined to a hospital crib with tubes in its tiny arms; talking to a boy whose steps were measured by his walker; and giving words of encouragement to parents whose child was too sick to even notice Santa’s presence.
“Santa is the best medicine of all,” one weary mother said as she delighted in the laughter of her daughter as Santa tickled her chin.
When one nurse said that Santa’s yearly visits do so much to raise the spirits of the children, the chiefs unanimously responded, “It raises our spirits more.”
Brian Gurney, current president of the Bergen County Chiefs Association and chief of the Ramsey police department said, “Nothing beats putting a smile on a child’s face.”