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Bergen Gives Back: The GoFundMes, Good Samaritans That Made 2016 Better

Left: Wyckoff Reformed Church Pastor Andy Kadzban surveys the damage in his cemetery after it was vandalized. Right: Desley Capil, left, started a GoFundMe for her sister, Nadine, who is battling a rare illness.
Left: Wyckoff Reformed Church Pastor Andy Kadzban surveys the damage in his cemetery after it was vandalized. Right: Desley Capil, left, started a GoFundMe for her sister, Nadine, who is battling a rare illness. Photo Credit: Special To Daily Voice
Rosemary Cronin of Clifton ended 2016 on a high note.
Rosemary Cronin of Clifton ended 2016 on a high note. Photo Credit: Facebook
Olivia Vanderhoof, 7, is battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Olivia Vanderhoof, 7, is battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Photo Credit: Jenny Pourakis
Tara and Ryan Walsh with baby Jackson for Fair Lawn's operation santa Boone.
Tara and Ryan Walsh with baby Jackson for Fair Lawn's operation santa Boone. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Lil Ryu, who turned 5 on Wed., Dec. 28, opens new gifts every day.
Lil Ryu, who turned 5 on Wed., Dec. 28, opens new gifts every day. Photo Credit: Special To Daily Voice
Cupcake Cutie Sonja Kramer Karlis of Cresskill holds up a toy she helps sort at the toy drive, held annually at the Closter Fire Department.
Cupcake Cutie Sonja Kramer Karlis of Cresskill holds up a toy she helps sort at the toy drive, held annually at the Closter Fire Department. Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco

Daily Voice reporters share with readers the gems of Bergen and Passaic Counties they've found on their beats in 2016.

These are places, people and activities that inspired us.

PATERSON, N.J. — Two days remained in 2016 when Clifton's Rosemary Cronin did the deed that would make a lasting impression on two boys.

Cronin was at a Paterson thrift shop with her son when she noticed two other boys, around 11 and 9 years old, browsing the toy section as she waited in line to pay.

They saw she was holding a football with the NY Giants logo on it, and asked Cronin if she was a fan of the team.

She is, and so were they.

That could've been the end of the exchange. But as Cronin, a North Arlington native, was leaving, she spotted the boys pushing an empty shopping cart in the back of the store.

"At that moment, I asked the boys if they wanted the football," said Cronin, referring to the one she'd just purchased. "The older boy immediately said yes."

She had never gifted anything to a stranger before, but she says she's glad she did, and is hoping the act of kindness will help her end 2016 on a high note.

Cronin's good deed is among the thousands by kids, parents, teachers, baby sitters, police officers and all-around good Samaritans from across Bergen and Passaic counties this year.

Take Ringwood's Willow Phelps, who for her ninth birthday swam to raise awareness toward a whale in a Miami aquarium. She was later named ASPCA Kid Of The Year.

The Hillsdale community rallied around 7-year-old Olivia Vanderhoof, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Police officers and faculty at her school videotaped themselves dancing to her favorite song, and a local mom organized a meal train for the family.

A group of Wyckoff Girl Scouts sold honey to help repair a vandalized cemetery.

There were countless meal trains, GoFundMe and YouCaring pages.

A Leonia teen launched one for her sister battling a rare, genetic disorder.

A group of Edgewater moms started a campaign after a local father killed his wife, his daughter and then himself. The funds were used to purchase guitars, which earlier this month were donated to the library for public classes in Melli Stasko's memory.

An Oakland animal rescue raised funds for an emaciated and abused dog being treated at the Oradell Animal Hospital , which later died.

The list goes on and on.

As 2016 comes to a close, I look back on the people I've helped through my writing, and the countless stories I've done on communities hell-bent on helping someone in need.

There were the complete strangers who started toy drives and baked cakes for a Little Ferry boy battling cancer . And the Bergen County police departments that gathered in Closter for the annual PBA Toy Drive.

Fair Lawn's annual Santa Boone is also an annual holiday highlight.

There are many Daily Voice readers like Cronin, and all those recounted here.They reach out to share a story or help raise awareness about a cause, sick neighbor or community member in need.

Please don't stop.

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