Old Bridge children surprised with memorable Christmas

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By JESSICA HARDING
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE – On Christmas Eve, three families were showered with kindness and given a Christmas celebration worth remembering.

Residents of the Old Bridge community took the time to visit the Bush Center and surprise three families who were in need of a Christmas miracle.

These three families had recently lost their homes and are each currently staying at motels. Resident Donna Erickson found out about the situation from a simple post on Facebook about two months ago.

“I posted on my own Facebook and urged the community to donate to others, especially this time of year,” she said. “All of a sudden, I was tagged in a post explaining that these three families needed help. That’s when this all started.”

Erickson’s son, Ian, is friends with George Gough, who took this project along, as he took the initiative to get local businesses and community members to donate.

The mission was to give these families an unforgettable Christmas. At 10 a.m. Dec. 24, the families entered the building and were greeted by Santa, Erickson, Gough, members of the community and local business members.

Santa called up each child and handed out dozens of wrapped presents. All families were given gifts tailored to their interests, such as hockey gear, Mickey Mouse toys, gift certificates to take dance lessons, clothes, and more.

Gift certificates, food and clothing items were donated from several companies, including Bagel Boy, Bagel Talk, Krispy Pizza, Giuseppe’s, Wonder Sub, the Old Bridge Basketball Association, Bodies in Motion Dance Center, Old Bridge Township, InStyle Salon, Cheer Dream Scoliosis Foundation, Edison DMV and Nieuw Amsterdam Apartment Complex. Some members of the businesses even showed up that morning to present gifts to the families.

Gough started a GoFundMe page and Facebook group on Nov. 28 in order to collect donations. More than $1,100 was raised by 25 people in one month, he said.

The news of the the families’ individual living situations hit close to home for him.

“You know, my family and I almost lost our house five years ago,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I knew I had to help.”

Gough’s wife Colleen, daughter Samantha and son Garrett helped wrap, set up a breakfast and deliver the presents to the center.

After gifts were opened, residents helped themselves to bagels, coffee, hot chocolate and Christmas goodies.

Resident Dana Marchetta’s three children baked a batch of cookies. She brought them to the event to teach them an important lesson.

“I brought my kids to show them some people are not as fortunate.” she said. “I wanted them to do a selfless act and because they are too young to volunteer, I thought this would be a great idea. It is a special day here for everyone.”

Contact Jessica Harding at [email protected].