When Santa rolls into Montclair, he ditches the sleigh and reindeer for a pickup truck and a police escort.
A cavalcade of Montclair Police Department vehicles lead Santa Claus from the department’s headquarters to the Salvation Army Citadel on Trinity Street on Tuesday. The procession of sirens and music -- with the armored Critical Response Team truck decked out in lights like a mobile Christmas tree -- was the culmination of the department’s annual toy drive.
Behind the entourage of police vehicles was a large tow-truck whose rear bed was full of toys which the department was donating to the Salvation Army -- more than 500 of them.
“It was a departmentwide effort,” said the officer dressed as Santa Claus. “It’s a great tradition."
When Santa and the motorcade made it to the Salvation Army, more than a dozen police officers hauled the large bags full of toys into the citadel. Some officers were also dressed as elves, the gingerbread man, Frosty the Snowman and other holiday characters.
Inside the citadel, the toys were laid out in the gymnasium to await the smiling faces and eager hands of children who got to choose a toy of their liking this week, said Corps. Officer Larry Ashcraft of the Salvation Army.
“More than anytime before,” said Ashcraft, “because of the storm and what they’ve seen on TV in the last ... days, they have become so traumatized and hurt, ... and anytime a kid can get a gift that can encourage them, it helps heal some scars and maybe helps them go on a different path in life."
After the special delivery, Santa was escorted around town by the entourage of police vehicles as he delivered more toys to children. This year, Santa visited more than 350 children in Montcliar.
“The first year we started with 22 families and its grown to 140 families,” said Santa. “We are building strong ties in the community.”