Hundreds of sick children were treated to new toys, a visit by Santa, and a squad of civic-minded Correction Officers last week at the Jersey City Medical Center.
“For many of these children,” said a grateful Dr. Richard Bonforte, medical director of the children’s hospital, “these are the only presents they’ll get.”
“Santa” Richard Kalb, a Hudson County Correction Officer at the Kearny prison, ho-ho-hoed his way through the intensive care unit.
“I feel compelled,” he said, “because it’s Christmas time.”
Of the 300 children, roughly 110 children in the hospital suffer from HIV/AIDS, 25 are battling cancer, while others have special needs and other physical disabilities, said Irene Alfonso, manager of volunteer services. Children’s faces lit up as Kalb handed out boxes of “Elmo’s Musical Keys,” and “Christina Aguilera Stage Microphone and Amplifier.”
It was a little toasty for Santa, though, and at one point he lost his hat.
“Santa’s disheveled,” said a sweating Kalb, as officers struggled to put the hat back on. “Hot and disheveled.” One of the recipients was 2-month old Jykere Jones, who sucked on a pacifier while his father cradled him in his arms. Jykere has pneumonia, and his father, Shaun, a Neptune Avenue resident, said he was grateful for the gift. “He’ll be alright,” Jones said of his son, “he’s just a little wheezy.”
Louise Stewart, a correction officer and Guttenberg resident, handed out gifts.
“That little boy’s reaction,” she said after giving a toy to an ICU patient, “I want to cry, he was so sweet.” Officer Michael Arcell, who coordinated the effort, said the officers got the toys together quickly, and were helped by donations from Carlstadt company Impact.
Irene Alfonso, manager of volunteer services, said that many other toy drives are planned for the month. Those other drives include Shadai Church, Kimberly Single, Mad One Jacks Hair Salon in Hoboken, Trust Company Bank, Eastern Church, Desiree Mills, Hudson County Schools of Technology, Italian American Police Society, mayor’s office, the Parish of St. Aloysius, First Betsaida Church, Venus McRay, and Monique Technique Nails.