"I wanted a bike," Saltarriba said.
There was a major reason why Saltarriba wanted to secure one of the 100 bicycles that were about to be raffled off.
According to his mother, Carla, young Angel had a nice bike, but he didn't take good care of it, especially during one trip to North Hudson Braddock Park in July.
"He took the bike to the park, went to play something with his friends, and just left the bike there," Carla Saltarriba-Gomez said. "He forgot all about the bike. When he went back to the park to get the bike a few hours later, it was gone. I told him that I wasn't going to buy him a new bike, because he simply lost the other one. He didn't take care of it. If he wanted a bike, he had to take care of it."
"It was stupid," Angel Saltarriba said. "I wasn't paying attention that day. I just left the bike there. I was so wrong."
So Angel went to the party, got his raffle ticket, and held it for dear life.
The annual Christmas Party enabled 900 township youngsters a chance to receive a free present, like a toy, game or perhaps a doll for a young lady. But 100 lucky youngsters received a new bicycle, courtesy of James Vincent Bicycles on Bergenline Avenue.
The funds were raised mostly by a golf outing that is organized by Larry Gold and Mario Marghella of Gold Coast Cleaners on Kennedy Boulevard. Gold and Marghella's golf outing raised $35,000 last June. That goes a long way when it comes to buying toys.
"It was all Mario's idea and we just took it and ran with it," Gold said. "It's now just blossomed into a great event."
The elves The job of buying the toys to be distributed falls on the shoulders of the township's Recreation Department, with practically every Recreation employee lending a hand.
"We start working two, maybe three months in advance," said recreation supervisor John Cellini. "It's a lot of work, going out to buy the toys, then bringing them back to the Recreation center to store them, then wrapping them and bringing them to Schuetzen Park for the party. It's definitely a lot of work, but it's really worth it when you see the faces of the youngsters."
Cellini and fellow recreation employees Joanne Sogulizzo, Joanne Wiley, Yolanda Saez, Amy Rubinaccio, John Prado and John "Digger" O'Dell got on their horses to purchase all the toys and gifts.
"Two weeks prior to the party, we have a registration where we get the kids' names, age groups and whether they're a boy or a girl," Cellini said. "We were able to get local businesses to help contribute, as well as private people. The bulk of the money comes from the golf outing and that helps a great deal."
So each child received a gift, but 100 lucky ones were able to get bicycles.
That's what excited Angel Saltarriba. So when the time came to raffle off bikes, Angel clutched his raffle ticket and followed the numbers carefully.
Sure enough, when the eighth bike was raffled off, Angel held the lucky ticket. He got himself the bike.
"I promise I'll take better care of this one," Angel said. "I won't let it out of my sight. It's great. It's my favorite Christmas present ever."
A great day "He better take care of this one, because he's not getting another one," Carla Saltarriba-Gomez said. "This party is a great thing, not just for my children, but for the others as well."
"That's what it's all about," Cellini said. "Some of the kids wouldn't have a present for Christmas without this party. You see their smiles and how much they really appreciate it. They just love it. Some of these kids don't get a chance to be happy all year, but they get this one day."
Gold was elated to be able to hand out some of the bicycles.
"It's absolutely fantastic to see their faces," Gold said. "They wait to hear the numbers being called out and then you see the kids walk up to the stage to get a bike. Their faces are amazing. It makes it all worthwhile. I grew up in Newark and we never had anything like this. These kids are getting a great opportunity. When you hear the raffles begin and they say, 'And the next one is for a bike.' You can hear them all get excited."
Mayor Nicholas Sacco was happy to make an appearance and hand out a few gifts.
"It's a wonderful event and all the children receive nice gifts," Sacco said. "It's just a nice day for the children. Some of them walk away with bicycles. Our Recreation Department does a fine job in getting the toys and gifts. They deserve all the credit. It all works out well."
Angel Saltarriba wanted to ride his bike home, but his mother declined.
"There was snow on the ground," Carla Saltarriba-Gomez said. "He'll have plenty of chances to ride it on other days."