Tears were falling outside the Brookhaven Health Care Facility Wednesday evening.
Jason Florio, a patient at the hospital, and Janna Florio, his wife of six years, exited the medical center to find Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Frosty the Snowman and around 100 carolers singing “Jingle Bells.”
Leading the chorus was Mark Miller, the owner of the Harbor Crab Co., celebrating his restaurant’s 17th annual Kris Kringle fundraiser this holiday season.
For nearly two decades, the fundraiser has helped local families facing financial strain following unforeseen circumstances such as illness or job loss.
In the case of the Florio family, they are enduring the fallout of the former. Janna said she tries to see Jason as often as she can, along with Adelina, their 2-year-old daughter.
“For the short term, Santa brought some gifts here for your little girl,” Miller told the couple Wednesday evening.
Then, in unison, the crowd said they had not one more thing for the family, or two things, or three, but 10, and Miller presented the family a check for $10,000.
“We really know that money can’t fix things,” Miller said. “But a little relief can help you to concentrate just on getting better.”
After showering the couple with well wishes, the crowd boarded three buses to go visit the next family on Kris Kringle’s list.
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record breaking fundraising
For 17 years, Miller said he and his committee have turned to churches, schools, social workers and people in the general public “with their ears to the street,” to select families they can help with the large donation.
“We do a lot of things in the village, but this is probably in those top three or four things that we do,” Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said. “And it’s the one that the least number of people know about. They change lives. That give back to the community is more important than anything else.”
Miller said the fundraiser would support 12 families this year. There are several regular donors who contribute large sums to Kris Kringle annually. Funds are also gathered through 50/50 and gift basket raffles.
“This year we will break all records,” Miller told a cheering crowd outside his restaurant as a light snow began to fall before they boarded the buses. “Last year, we did $120,000 and I just figured people were just so generous because of what was going on in the world. We will blow right through that this year. I don’t have final tally but it’s already $125,000 and we’re gonna change people’s lives, it’s unbelievable.”
Scroll down for photos from the fundraiser.