WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Little Alex Hammer, tired from a day at the Sanzari Children’s Hospital, was dejected Thursday night — until Santa Claus showed up at his Washington Township house.
The big guy in red brought a bag of gifts, too, containing every single item on the 4-year-old boy’s wish list.
Santa arrived as part of an exciting procession of six firetrucks and six police cars, all from Bogota and Washington Township.
“Look, Alex!” said his mother, Krista, kneeling by his side and pointing to the lights coming down Colonial Boulevard.
They stood on the front lawn of their home along with his father, Adam, and sister, Alanna.
The little boy, recently diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, peered down the street, a somber look on his face. In the past month, his mother said, he’s endured two surgeries and chemo.
When Alex looked up into the face of a police officer who told him Santa Claus came to see just him, he appeared puzzled.
When Santa, aka Bogota Firefighter Ken O’Donnell, appeared, everything changed.
Wide-eyed, he let Santa take him back into his house.
In his living room, Santa sat Alex and his sister on the couch and gave them his presents, which included a Washington Township police cap for each sibling.
Some two dozen police officers and firefighters stood and watched Alex rip the paper off all his favorite toys as his mother teared up.
Two minutes into the unwrapping, the boy, smiling ear to ear, exclaimed, “This is the best Christmas ever!”
The scene unfolded like a Christmas movie, complete with soundtrack as volunteer brass players from Westwood High School, wearing Santa hats and Christmas lights, played carols outside the family’s front door.
The whole thing started, Krista Hammer explained, when her husband told his longtime friend, Marina Cole, about Alex’s illness.
“He told her Alex wasn’t able to get to the mall to see Santa this year,” Krista Hammer said.
Cole understood, Adam Hammer said. She is a cancer survivor.
Unbeknownst to the couple, Cole called her brother, Sgt. Geoff Cole of the Bogota Police Department, who immediately started organizing Santa’s visit.
“Sgt. Cole called me and asked if we wanted to join in, and we said, ‘Absolutely,’” said Washington Township Lt. Rich Skinner, who led the Santa procession on a motorcycle.
He said Washington Township Police Officer Heather Castronova, who works on community initiatives, was key to pulling off the special event.
“There’s a ton of firemen and police officers involved,” Skinner said. “We all just wanted to come and wish Alex a merry Christmas.”
The family has been surrounded by support since Alex’s diagnosis, Krista Hammer said.
“People have asked to start a GoFundMe,” she said. “We thanked them but said no. All we want now is for Alex to feel special.”