WILDWOOD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I remember when I was a kid here in Wildwood, you know, being on the receiving end of the stockings," said Chief Ernie Troiano III.
Troiano is a third-generation firefighter who is carrying on a tradition passed down by his father and grandfather before him. He and other members of the Wildwood Fire Department take on the role of Santa's helpers and distribute hundreds of stockings full of snacks to school children.
Today, they visited Glenwood Avenue Elementary School, Glenwood Avenue Annex, and Pre-K students at Wildwood High School. It brought back memories of palpable childhood excitement for Troiano.
"I got to see my dad, I got to see my uncles. I got to see my grandfather, you know, so it was even better for me," he said. "And then ended up becoming a fireman and partaking in the stocking delivery and packing process and everything."
Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Dunn has a similar story. He remembers growing up both packing and receiving stockings alongside his grandfather, who was also a firefighter.
"The connection that we have in the community and especially with our local school children, you can't put a price tag on that," he said.
The firefighters invited Santa to sing songs with the students on their last day of school before Christmas. But they also invited a staple of the Wildwood community, John Lynch, founder of the Lunch with Lynch Foundation, to drum up holiday excitement.
Lynch's focus is creating educational opportunities for children in and out of the classroom. But during the holidays, he is especially adamant about collecting and distributing toy donations.
"In addition to today, we will have bagged over 300 toys for over 800 children," said Lynch. "And Good Samaritans and elves in our community along with the Wildwood fire and police departments will go out and we're going to spread some holiday joy on Christmas Eve."
Spreading such Christmas joy can take a village. But in this case, it takes a whole island.