Children with disabilities get visit from Santa, Albany PAL

ALBANY — Children were gathered for the big visit, as members of the Albany Police Athletic League and Santa Claus came to the Center for Disability Services in Albany, bringing gifts.

This is a 30-year tradition, with a recent two-year lapse.

“You know the smiles on these children’s faces, it just gets right to your heart,” said Anne Schneider Costigan with the Center of Disability Services. “And many of our children are not able to go to a mall or able to go anywhere else to visit with Santa. So for the Albany police department and the police athletic league to bring Santa to us, it’s really, really, truly wonderful and the children are enjoying it, the staff are enjoying it.”

“The other part of it is just getting our officers involved,” said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins. “And as you can see, we had so many from the Albany police department who volunteered to come out and do this and it brings awareness to our department for what’s happening with some of these individuals who have some challenges, and it’s great for us to be a part of this community with this.”

Students at the Center’s Clover Patch Preschool and the Langan School have disabilities or severe medical conditions. They work with and learn from special education teachers and therapists.

Volunteers say it’s the best feeling in the world to be able to go in and interact with the children.

“The excitement,” said Jon Phillips, longtime PAL member. “We haven’t been here in two years. To watch all the kids in the room, smiling. Our joy at giving out little holiday toys and presents, it’s just, holiday spirit! It’s a great thing to be back to doing this year.”

“It was just an awesome opportunity for us to come out here and bring some smiles to some faces,” said Albany Police Officer Nicholas Schuler. “And they return the favor and I know it made all of us smile inside.”