NEW YORK (AP) — From his toy-cluttered Brooklyn apartment, the man in the red suit was making his list and checking it twice. But he made no distinction between naughty or nice: Every child on it would receive a gift from this Santa Claus.
For the children whose toys floated away during Superstorm Sandy, Michael Sciaraffo is playing the role of a real-life Saint Nick. Every afternoon and night, he stuffs his red sack to the brim with presents and heads out to storm-ravaged homes, personally delivering new toys to awestruck little kids whose play rooms were destroyed by floodwaters. And with less than a week before Christmas, his "Secret Sandy Claus Project" is keeping him very busy.
"Between the requests coming in for personal visits as well as the influx of donations, it's been a full-time job," said Sciaraffo, a 31-year-old political consultant. "And kudos to Santa, because I don't know how he pulls it off every year."
There's hardly any room to sit in his tiny apartment, where boxes of toys are piled on tables and all over the floor. He spends most of the day keeping track of toy requests and donations that are pouring in by the hundred from people who know children affected by the storm. At first, Sciaraffo began jotting down the requests on Post-it notes, but as demand steadily grew he created a spreadsheet and taped it to the wall.
The list reads like an inventory for a toy store. A Playskool swing for 2-year-old Jacob. A Disney Fairies makeup set for 5-year-old Charlotte. Then there are countless robots and footballs and baby dolls arranged by age and gender, awaiting assignment to a specific child.
"The goal was to match up each child with a toy that they liked or asked Santa for for Christmas," Sciaraffo explained. "We basically tried to pair them up with toys I had in stock."