A PUBLISHER WRITES: “This is the best day of my life!” exclaimed 15-year-old Jonah Gold of Tenafly, enjoying the attention heaped on him as “Chief for a Day.”
Jonah has what is known as Aicardi Guitierez Syndrome, a genetic disease that afflicts youngsters with spasms and seizures, among other severe disabilities.
Escorted by Tenafly’s actual top cop, Police Chief Robert Chamberlain, the teen yesterday joined two dozen other Bergen County kids with chronic disabilities — as well as their parents and scores of law enforcement officers — for what has become a very special annual event.
Looking for a few good men or women? Bergen has plenty.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for more than 30 years,” Sheriff Michael Saudino told me yesterday. “I think I speak for all of the officers here today when I say that we live for days like today – days when we can have a positive impact on our communities and celebrate life.”
The sheriff created “Chief for a Day” beginning with a modest number of chiefs and other officers. In just three years, it has become one of the most popular outings in the county.
A tremendous amount of credit goes to Saudino, who’s shown a commitment to children since his early days as a patrolman — and on through the ranks to Emerson police chief before voters elected him sheriff in 2010.
But kudos, as well, go to the various chiefs who participated. They were smiling just as broadly as the youngsters they got to spend their day with.
(PHOTO, TOP: Washington Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco with honorary chief, Washington School student Jackie Baez)
“The experience was both humbling and rewarding,” Fairview Police Chief Frank DelVecchio told me. “In a world with so many problems these kids, who are battling illnesses and some life threatening, display something missing in today’s society: courage and bravery.
“Although we as chiefs were able to bring them happiness and a day hopefully they will never forget, the ‘little chiefs’ actually taught us something: that family, community, faith and hope are so important in each of our lives,” said DelVecchio, who thanked Saudino and his staff for assembling such an inspiring program.
“It’s equally important to our core mission of what we do as public safety administrators,” Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler said. “I consider it even more important because it energizes me to focus on what’s important in life.”
“It definitely reminds us all why we took this job,” added Washington Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco.
Kudos also to the various PBAs for their dedication to the cause, and to several businesses that donated goods, services and funds to make it all possible, beginning with The Landmark Restaurant in East Rutherford, where a gala luncheon for the honorary chiefs was held; Trophy King, Co-Ed Uniforms, and Harris Uniforms, which provided the garb, photos and awards that will surely remain lasting mementos; the Taylor Event Group, the New York International Auto Show, Kmart of Elmwood Park, the Woman’s Club of Garfield, Oak Ale House, Johnson Communications, A&P of Park Ridge, Dollar Store of Park Ridge, Saddle Brook VFW Post 3484, Joel Tobia of J&L Auto Glass and Toni Embroidery of Westwood.
YOU SAW IT HERE FIRST:
“He’s one of the night crew,” Hackensack Police Director Michael Mordaga said as he held a sleeping young Giovanni DiPersia in his arms on the steps of the Bergen County Courthouse as part of today’s annual “Chief for a Day” event coordinated by county Sheriff Michael Saudino.
Each of the honorary chiefs received a uniform and was escorted by a patrol car to his or her local police headquarters for a swearing in yesterday morning, followed by a tour of the facilities. A squad-car ride to the courthouse for a group ceremony followed.
Then came a motorcade to The Landmark, where the new chiefs and their families had lunch, followed by special guest speakers and a variety of activities and entertainment. Plaques were to awarded to each youngster.
Saudino got to mentor Brian Tuch, 15, of Teaneck, who had infant leukemia but has been in remission after a bone marrow transplant.
The sheriff called the event part of “our duty to bring care to those who need it the most.”
It is our honor to be served by him, the local chiefs and all of those who had a hand in a day to remember.
PHOTOS (Courtesy Bergen County Sheriff’s Office):
TOP: Group shot on steps of Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack
Saudino with Brian Tuch
LEFT: Tuck meets a K9 and his partner
RIGHT: Dylan Wallace w/Upper Saddle River Police Chief Patrick Rotella
BOTTOM: Chamberlain, Saudino, actor Danny Aiello, Jonah, NY Giant Jim Corkle
Bergen County Sheriff’s Office – Brian Tuch
Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office – Justin Gerity
Bergenfield Police Department – Rivka Gitstein
Elmwood Park Police Department – Antonio Valenti
Emerson Police Department – Isabella & Brianna Romano
Englewood Cliffs Police Department – Michael Kontzamanis
Fairview Police Department – Sean Pelaez
Fort Lee Police Department – Albert Lopez
Garfield Police Department – Ahtziri E. Garcia
Hackensack Police Department – Rocco Malvasia & Giovanni DiPersia
Hasbrouck Heights Police Department – Marybeth Barrios
Maywood Police Department – Ava Borntrager
Montvale Police Department – Caitlin & Jacquelyn Sulzer
North Arlington Police Department – Jeffrey Kim
Paramus Police Department – Alexander T. Guerriero
Park Ridge Police Department – Joseph Mahoney
Ridgewood Police Department – Michael Feeney
Rutherford Police Department – Jarett Sartori
Saddle Brook Police Department – Nick Santolla
Teaneck Police Department – Thomas Caruso, Jr.
Tenafly Police Department – Jonah Gold
Upper Saddle River Police Department – Dylan Wallace
Wallington Police Department – Bilal Ebrahim
Washington Township Police Department – Jacqueline Baez
Westwood Police Department – Stefano Benevento
Helping to make “Chief for a Day” possible: PBA Local 134 of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office; Elmwood Park PBA Local 185; PBA Local 46 of Garfield; Montvale PBA Local 303; Paramus PBA 186; Ridgewood PBA Local 20; Teaneck PBA Local 215; Wallington PBA Local 321; PBA Local 206 of Emerson, Haworth, Old Tappan, Oradell, Park Ridge, River Vale, Washington Township, Westwood and Woodcliff Lake, and the Maywood Police Officer’s Association.
BELOW (Photos: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)
Michael Kontzamanis w/Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi
Giovanni DiPersia w/Hackensack Police Director Michael Mordaga
Nick Santolla w/Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler
Michael Feeney w/Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward
LEFT: Sean Pelaez w/Fairview Police Chief Frank DelVecchio
RIGHT: Thomas Caruso Jr. w/Teaneck Police Chief Robert Wilson
Brian Tuch w/Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino & NY Giants center Jim Cordle
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