- Associated Press - Friday, December 20, 2019

FAIR LAWN, N.J. (AP) - On a frigid Thursday evening, residents braved the freezing temperatures to surprise firefighter Kyle Wilson and deliver him and his family some much-needed Christmas cheer.

This marks Fair Lawn’s ninth annual Santa Boone event and its 10th mission overall. This year’s surprise visit was dedicated to Wilson, his fiance Leigh-Anne Yorke, and their 1-year-old son Colton. Wilson suffered major injuries, including a collapsed lung, after a car accident over the summer. While driving with his then 10-month-old son, he was hit from behind on Route 17 in Maywood. When he got out of the car to check on his son, Wilson was hit by another car and dragged down the highway. Since the accident, he has made a steady recovery and is in physical therapy.

More than a dozen vehicles poured out onto Fairclough Place, including police cars, EMS trucks, and fire trucks. They sounded their sirens to create an impromptu parade. The lights illuminated the roads as they pulled up to the Wilson house.

“This is the best part,” said David Boone retired police detective, pastor and fire chaplain. Along with this roles he is also known as Santa around town.

Fair Lawn Human Services, Fair Lawn Police, PBA Local 67, Fair Lawn Heavy Rescue, Fair Lawn Fire, Fair Lawn Ambulance Corps, borough employees, volunteers and current and former students of Fair Lawn High School joined in on the effort. Children from the Lutz and Spittle families helped as honorary elves to Santa Boone.

The whole neighborhood seemingly tagged along on this top-secret operation. Neighbors stood outside waving to the firefighters. The lights combined with holiday light decorations adorned on houses created a mirage of Christmas magic. Deputy Mayor John Cosgrove attended the celebration as his last official duty before the conclusion of his term at the end of the year.

“This is incredible, its absolutely amazing, its feels like family,” said Wilson,seeing his fellow squad and fire chief coming out to support him

“We were definitely surprised,” Yorke said. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

The family was eating dinner when they saw the lights coming down their street. The Wilson family was gifted with a weekend vacation to Great Wolf Lodge.

The first stop was to the Wilson’s home and then the family was whisked to Eberline Drive to admire the iconic holiday lights and decorations of the Edson’s home, where the friends and neighbors waited to celebrate. The Wilson family rode in the firetruck with Santa Boone.

“I never got to be on this side of the truck before,” said Wilson, a firefighter with Company 1. At the Christmas block party, there was hot chocolate and pastries baked by pastry chef Cristina Vazquez.

“He’s one of my guys, we’re all brothers and sisters here. We know he’s greatly appreciative of everything,” said Fire Chief Jacob Mamo. “We’ve been with him since day one at the hospital.”

Last year, Santa Boone visited Abigail Aversa, who lost her mother Marisa to breast cancer, followed by a visit to the Horowitz family who had lost their home to a fire on Hanukkah.

So how did all this get started?

Well, Liz Maresca of the Human Services Department, who works at the food pantry, received a call from a mother in need in 2009. Boone, a pastor in Wayne, raised money for the family through his church. With coordination, the two put their jobs together to get the raised money to the family and Boone hand delivered the donation along with gifts to the family.

From their they met with then Mayor Cosgrove who approved the initiative and Boone got to fulfill his dream of playing Santa Claus. One of their most memorable operations was when they brought a Christmas tree and gifts to a family. The waited for an hour in the family’s living room just to surprise the hardworking mom.

Luis Vasquez, police officer and president of Police Benevolent Association, said one of his most memorable moments was when they surprised a young girl named Riley with a unicorn. The girl prayed to her dad for a unicorn. Her dad Harry Daniel Lutz, Jr. passed away in 2017.

“We really hope this good breaks up all that bad,” said Vasquez.

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