by Joe Toscano

Once a year I get to be a "super hero", complete with superhero suit and the all gadgets that cause people to say, “Oh boy, I gotta’ get me one of those." It may only be for one night, but for the past six years it has been my own personal Christmas blessing.

"Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane...It’s Santa Claus!"

That’s right, Ol' St. Nick, the chubby old geezer, still makes children of all ages swoon whenever he arrives. Is it the red suit or the funny hat? Maybe it’s how he gets all those gifts down the chimneys or under the doors of homes and apartments all over the world. Whatever it is, from his eight tiny reindeer to his ear shattering, "Ho, Ho, Ho," he never fails to awe and amaze us.

It is true that beyond my one night stand--I play Santa for the annual KidsPeace (Kidspeace.com) Christmas party--the red suit hangs unceremoniously in my closet. But for that one night, the looks on the faces of the children of KidsPeace always seem to overwhelm and inspire me to do the things and to be the person I had always hoped I could be.

It may be Santa who gets the glory this time of year, but the real super heroes are the many men and women who have sacrificed better pay and financial success for a career devoted to helping and caring for our most vulnerable, the children that fill the rolls of KidsPeace across the country. By the way, they do it all year long!

It is more often than not a job filled with broken homes and broken hearts. Their selfless sacrifices see to it that the lives of the many, many children in their charge are not broken, that they have the opportunity of a full life filled with the love and care that only a family can provide.

Although not every story has a happy ending, I shudder to think how many more lost and lonely children would be following a path that will surely lead to anywhere but health and happiness if not for the efforts of KidsPeace and their entire staff. While it may be the countless men, women who are the foster families that provide loving care on a daily basis, it takes the work of counselors, case workers, training personnel and placement and crisis staff to create a support network to handle each child individually. The alternative may be useful, residential children’s homes are functional and oft times necessary, but they are no substitute for a loving family home.

So, I want to thank KidsPeace, specifically the staff at the Aaron Court, Kingston location for giving me this annual opportunity. While my wife, Beverly and I are also foster parents in the KidPeace program, there isn’t enough room in this article to explain the untold joys, and sometime heartache, that have filled our lives since we became part of the program.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the many local and national business owners and the men and women who help to make this a very special time of year for so many children. Their generosity often goes unrecognized. It is this generosity that helps fill Santa’s sack with so many wonderful toys, clothing, books and games. While they seldom get to see it firsthand, the smiles on the faces, the laughter and the joy they bring to so many boys and girls is a "Thanks, Santa," meant for each one. Yes, it is Santa who gets the hugs and the kisses, but the very special "Thanks, Santa," I accept all on your behalf. Each of you are the real superheroes of the Christmas season.

You know who you are. May your blessings be endless and what you have shared come back to you and your families a thousand times over.