UNION, NJ — Ana Solano of Union wanted her son, 13-year-old Allen, to take a picture with Santa Claus for the first time this Christmas.
A month after visiting Allen decked out in their superhero costumes, Sgt. Michael Boll and more than a dozen other members of the Union Police Department made the Santa Claus picture happen on Saturday, Dec. 19.
“We really weren’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to see a group of police officers — I thought maybe one or two. That was one of the best moments of the year for us,” said Solano. Allen can’t leave the house, she explained, because of the disabilities he was born with. “We want to let everyone know what they’re doing, because not everyone knows what they’re doing in their spare time: To give surprises to kids like my son, who’s not able to leave the house at all.”
It took a spirited community effort to help Allen pull through 2015 in good shape, said Solano. An inspired doctor, for example, recently came to tend to Allen when he was severely ill, even on the doctor’s days off.
With two house calls to Allen this holiday season, and many more to see other kids with disabilities this holiday season, the Union Police Department became a part of that community.
“I’ve never taken my son for a picture with Santa, and he never had one before. Even if he’s sleeping, if it’s the only opportunity we have, it’s a good memory. It’s worth it completely,” said Solano. “I think they’re doing just a wonderful job for kids with disabilities. It’s really amazing what they do.”
Since November, Boll and other police officers have visited dozens of children in Union while dressed as superheroes, from Batman and The Flash to Wonder Woman and Supergirl.
It all started while setting up the annual “Santa in Blue Toy Drive,” when a resident visited and told the police about their special needs child.
“When we spoke to them, we wanted to know what gifts we should give to their son. They said ‘superheroes,’ so we decided to actually dress up as superheroes and come to the house,” said Boll.
The police didn’t want to stop at just one child, he added, and soon enough officers were visiting students at the Deron School of New Jersey.
“We came here to show that the Union Police care about these students, having the officers dress up in costume and showing them how we feel about them,” Boll added.
Solano says she feels “extremely blessed” the Union Police Department is going above and beyond for local families, like her own. And the superhero theme fits, said Michele Zaitz, Allen’s teacher, for kids like Allen, who do a lot of fighting on a regular basis.
“He’s got a lot of issues. And that’s what makes him a superhero — with all of those issues, he’s a fighter. Two years ago, we thought ‘this is it,’” said Zaitz.
“The hospital told the family they should come and say their goodbyes. They couldn’t, and neither could he, and he’s with us today.”
Now, the Solano family has their Christmas gift days before schedule: A picture of Allen with Santa.
And, as it turns out, the visit was extra special for Santa, too.
“All these years doing this toy drive I have never seen Santa cry, until today,” Boll wrote in a post on
a Union Facebook forum. “Today Santa couldn’t have been any more real and brought Christmas to all