Kimberly Cetin and her nine children worried Santa wouldn’t find them when a fire destroyed their Shirley home.
But after spending a sleepless night in a Bellport hotel room, they were greeted by Santa, who arrived Saturday with Toys for Tots to save Christmas.
“I told them, Santa always follows children and makes Christmas possible when he knows you’re good,” Cetin said. “We lost everything. We always had it together in good times and bad. Gifts or not, we’ll be strong.”
The Toys for Tots organization, working with the U.S. Marine Corps and several Long Island businesses, surprised the family with dozens of toys for the children, whose ages range from 2 to 19.
The children happily ripped open packages and tore into their presents as Santa Claus chuckled and volunteers looked on in the cozy Marriott hotel room.
“They love Santa knowing who they are. This assured them they know wherever they are, Santa is going to find them,” Cetin said. “This made them forget the tragedy of yesterday.”
Maj. Chuck Kilbride said he purchased five or six toys for each child with Baseline Health, Property Tax Reduction Consultants and the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.
“A new unwrapped toy is a symbol of hope,” Kilbride said. “This is what the Marines do. It was a big coordinated attack.”
Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center said it was hosting the hotel room for the family after they were treated in the emergency room Friday following the fire. They were all released in good health.
Brookhaven hospital officials provided clothes and shoes for the family after they lost everything in the fire.
Hospital staff raised $14,000 in the first few hours after the fire and was continuing to collect donations for the family, Brookhaven’s president, Richard Margulis, said.
“It’s nice to see people do nice things,” Margulis said.