By MADDY VITALE
The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Ocean City – so much so that Santa decided to come for a visit days ahead of the holiday.
Students at the Intermediate School had a pretty good idea the jolly man would be arriving. They filed out of the school and waited on Bay and Haven avenues and 18th Street to watch St. Nick glide into town atop a fire truck.
“I think it is great to see him. It’s festive and gives everyone the holiday spirit,” exclaimed Ella Brunetti, 10, a fifth-grader.
Principal Michael Mattina had the best view while watching from the roof of the school. He waved at the children below as he took photos of the scene.
The white-bearded Santa Claus, in his crushed red velvet suit and bright white gloves, rode in a fire truck with a police car carefully following behind.
“Santa!” shouted 10-year-old Liam Geary, a fifth-grade student. “This is great! This is the Christmas spirit.”
His buddy, Andrew Godfrey, 10, also in the fifth grade, added, “I was looking forward to this. This is fun.”
But students didn’t just get to see Santa on the special Monday afternoon.
Afterward, there were treats, all courtesy of OCNJ CARE, a non-profit organization that raises funds, identifies those in need and delivers aid where needed in the community.
In this case, their assistance came in the way of buying pretzels that were molded in the shape of candy canes and provided to all of the OCIS students. The fourth and fifth graders got an extra surprise of milk and cookies from the school kitchen staff.
The school district has been working on ways to brighten the holidays for students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was just another way to make students and faculty a bit happier, noted Stepfanie Grisinger, an OCIS social worker who is in charge of the school’s Wellness Center.
Grisinger noted that OCNJ CARE member Jen Bowman and chairman Drew Fasy helped to make the event possible.
“I was talking with Jen Bowman about what we could do to brighten everyone’s holiday,” Grisinger explained. “The kids are in school and we wanted to do something to boost the moods of the students and the faculty as well.”
The Ocean City Fire Department, along with OCNJ CARE and other volunteers, school faculty and the community came together to deliver one pleasant sight and surprise, she said.
Santa returns at 1 p.m. Tuesday for another stop at the Intermediate School.
Fasy said members of OCNJ Care are always happy to help anyway they can.
“OCNJ CARE is in a unique position, as a volunteer organization in the community, to work with various entities to try to help wherever and whenever we can,” Fasy said.
He continued, “In this case, the school reached out to us to partner and try to bring some ‘merry’ to kids, at a time when some kids are struggling. We support the school district however we can and are happy to be involved in this event.”