Suburban village honors fallen Marine with tradition of giving back

ELMWOOD PARK -- At St. Celestine in Elmwood Park, the spirit of giving is in step with the season, as hundreds came together Sunday to honor a fallen Marine by giving back to those in need.

Nearly 10 years ago, the first Breakfast With Santa was held to keep the memory of Elmwood Park native LCpl. Nick Daniels alive. Daniels was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

"It started off little group of citizens who wanted to get involved," said organizer Josephine Desanto. "And it just kept going, and going, and going."

It continued to grow until between 600 and 700 people joined the Elmwood Park Neighborhood Civic Organization at the breakfast Sunday, eating hundreds of pounds of food and donating thousands of gifts to Toys for Tots to honor Daniels' service. His mom Debi is overwhelmed.

"This is awesome...because it makes people ask about him," Daniels said. "The hardest thing about losing a child: you never want him forgotten. You don’t want his humor, his sense of humor, the silliness, his heart."

Attendees also signed cards to send to U.S. service members, some of whom joined them on Sunday and got their thanks in person.