Joe Sarnoski: one person, many sides.

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Joe Sarnoski: one person, many sides.

Joe Sarnoski brings a smile to the faces of the children he visits in local hospitals. He's affectionately called

Joe Sarnoski brings a smile to the faces of the children he visits in local hospitals. He's affectionately called "Santa" by all.

Joe Sarnoski

Joe Sarnoski brings a smile to the faces of the children he visits in local hospitals. He's affectionately called "Santa" by all.

Joe Sarnoski

Joe Sarnoski

Joe Sarnoski brings a smile to the faces of the children he visits in local hospitals. He's affectionately called "Santa" by all.

Katie Tenebruso, Reporter

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Although he’s a retired captain from the Lyndhurst Police Department, Joe Sarnoski’s work in the community is far from over. Now, he serves as the New Jersey representative for the Special Olympics. He also visits ill children in local hospitals dressed as Santa because he really looks like St. Nick. In fact, that’s the name he goes by in his all-police recreational motorcycle group. Sarnoski spreads love and joy all year round. Let’s learn more him.

Katie: When did you start as a police officer?

Joe: I got sworn in as a police officer in February of 1977 … a long time ago.

Katie: And how long was this for?

Joe: I was a police officer for 32 years. I retired in January of 2009.

Katie: Was there any specific reasons why you became a police officer?

Joe: Well, one reason I became a police officer was that I was married at the time, and my wife had just informed me we were having a baby, and I had just got laid off from my job as a carpenter, so I said I’m going to take a job as a police officer just for a little while. I figured I would try it for a little while, and if I didn’t like it I would go back to being a carpenter, but it wound up I stayed. I loved the job. It was the best job I ever had.

Katie: I heard you were running for commissioner. How come?

Joe: I am running for commissioner because the politics in our town have seemed to stray away from what the people want, and it gets to the point where … the five guys that are there, it is what they want. They don’t listen to the people as much as they should. I am running as an independant against two other teams of five and one other independent, but even if I get in like everybody says, I won’t have that much of a vote, but I will have a voice.

Katie: Now, a little away from your police work. I know you are Santa, so how long have you been Santa?

Joe: I’ve been Santa since 1971.

Katie: And do you visit sick children in hospitals as Santa?

Joe: Yes, I do. I do Santa for the Special Olympics and for kids with disabilities that can’t leave their house. I do it for a hospital in Albany, New York, and for kids with severe disabilities … kids that are born to heroin and crack addicts. It is very rewarding. I get more out of it then they do.

Katie: Is there a reason of why you decide to go to the needy people?

Joe: Well, because people forget about them a lot. We make awareness about the people with Special Olympics, but we forget about the ones in hospitals or the kids that are disabled and can’t get outside. Someone calls me and says my niece or nephew or a friend of mine’s kid want to see you. Even if I only have an hour, I’ll go.

Katie: What is your favorite part of being Santa?

Joe: My favorite part is the looks all the kids give me walking around. They aren’t sure. They are like, “Is he? Is it really?” I was at Disney World, and I was on the bus, and a kid kept looking at me, and my daughter said, “That is Santa,” and the kid went, “No, itisn’t,” and I said, “Yes, I am,” and when I knew her brother’s name [I heard the dad say his name] I said, “And how are you Ben-Fred?” and the brother was shocked, but I like it because it makes the kids happy.

Katie: Do you plan to do this for a long time?

Joe: As long as I can put a kid on my lap, I’ll do it.

Katie: So when did your love for helping people start really?

Joe: When I was  a kid. My father was sick later on in life, but before he was always helping people, even if he didn’t know them, he would help.

Katie: And you just got back from Austria, right? How long were you there?

Joe: Yes, I was  there for 13 days, and we ran for 10 of the days. There was a ceremony where it proceeded to rain at the ceremony, but you wouldn’t have even known. Everyone was looking. The skiers came down the mountain. The athletes came in. There was 2,700 athletes marching in.

Katie: Was this ceremony outside?

Joe: Yes, the ceremony was outside … open stadium.

Katie: What were you doing in Austria. Were you there for the Special Olympics?

Joe: I was there just for the Special Olympics. We started running our second day, and we ran for the next 10 days, two, three and as many as five runs a day. It went from one mile up to two miles. You would run and then you would make people aware of what the Special Olympics were.

Katie: How long have you been representing New Jersey in the Special Olympics?

Joe: I’ve been with the Special Olympics since 1995. A friend of mine was a retired Tenafly cop, and he asked me to give awards to some special athletes. I didn’t know anything about the Special Olympics, but I went up there and gave awards to a local country track meet. It was the first time I did it, and from then on it didn’t stop.

Katie: It sounds like helping people is a big part of your life now. Has it always been?

Joe: Yes, since I was young I loved to help people.  If you don’t help someone everyday, the day is wasted. It gives a big reward. It is what they call paying it forward. As Mrs.Claus says, “God made him do big because he needed someone to hold such a big heart.”

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