While the infectious fun, fellowship, and energy of the Christmas season is usually enjoyed by many, there is no doubt that the stress of the month leading up to the holiday can be one of the most stressful of the year. That said, we can usually take all the help we can get.  

The same can be said for Santa Claus, of the North Pole, who found himself so strapped with orders that he enlisted the help of one of Suffolk County’s finest organizations, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), to help him deliver gifts for students at the Arthur E. Premm Learning Center in Oakdale last Friday. 

In fact, the PBA is no stranger to helping St. Nick for this particular school. The tradition goes back over thirty years, and this year was no exception in terms of excitement and Christmas spirit. 

In addition to Santa Claus, The Messenger made sure to collect the thoughts of another valuable component of the event, the President of the Suffolk PBA, Lou Civello.  

The children of Premm submitted their lists to their teachers, who then got in contact with the North Pole. Upon Santa’s arrival in a police command center truck, the men and women of law enforcement in Suffolk County took to festive ties and headgear to unload the gifts into the school, where each class of the school was gathered around Santa’s throne and an elaborate balloon sculpture behind him. Santa thanked the officers of Suffolk County for their help and for getting him down to Long Island so quickly.  

“This is my first time at this event as president, and this really is the most special event that we do,” said Civello. “It’s a blessing and a joy to bring some happiness to these kids. We also get to help Santa; these presents are being delivered by our Elves in Blue.” 

Civello discussed the process of the event and how the police officers make the event happen. 

“Each child submits a wish and those wishes go up to the North Pole, and then our police officers facilitate that wish. Santa came in today on our police escort,” said Civello. “We get as much out of this as the children do. The smiles on their faces and the happiness we bring to them is really something our officers look forward to every single year.” 

Civello’s association with the Suffolk County Police Department is just one connection to the decades-long tradition. During his time as a police officer, he became intimately familiar with the Oakdale area, as well as Premm Learning Center.  

“This was my study sector for many years,” said Civello. “I worked as a police officer in this community, so I’m very familiar with this area and the staff here. It’s always a pleasure to work with them.” 

The Messenger even got a chance to talk to a student-teacher duo while Santa was handing out the gifts to the groups of kids. Vincent, 5, a student at Premm, was “super excited” to see Santa. Vincent said he asked Santa for “new cars.” 

Victoria Iodice, 23, is Vincent’s teacher at Premm. “It’s always a big event, it’s everyone’s favorite day of the year,” said Iodice. This is her second year teaching at Premm and recounted the joy of last year’s event. She also remarked on the logistics of the day. 

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into this,” said Iodice. “Some people here are on committees who set up the whole event, they figure out the kids’ wishes, and they even come up with new ideas to make the day slightly different each year.” 

The Messenger congratulates Premm Learning Center on another fantastic coordination between the North Pole and the Suffolk County Police Department, and thanks the PBA for their continued community outreach and service, especially during the busiest time of the year. 

“Premm Learning Center serves students with moderate to severe developmental delays, and plays an integral part in the lives of the students we teach. We work as a team, in cooperation with the parents, to ensure that each student develops to his/her maximum potential academically, socially, and physically and achieves his/her highest level of independence. Multi-modality approaches to learning best serve our students while striving to achieve their goals.” 

Premm Learning Center is located at 1200 Montauk Highway in Oakdale. Included site programs are located in East Islip, Holbrook, and Stony Brook.

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Matt Meduri serves as the Editor in Chief of the Messenger Papers and writer of America the Beautiful and This Week Today columns. As a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Matt has been working in the political journalism field for over 5 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, enjoys cooking and writing his own recipes, and traveling throughout the United States including Guam.