FAIR LAWN, N.J. -- Bernadette Vargas opened her front door Tuesday night to a Christmastime escape from her battle with breast cancer.
The speechless single mom — who was in the middle of baking cupcakes — sobbed with joy as emergency vehicles with sirens wailing and lights flashing pulled up and dozens of well-wishers rushed to her door.
Carolers sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as the visitors came in, one by one, led by Detective David "Santa" Boone.
There were police officers, borough employees and high school students, many of whom have participated in the annual "Operation Santa Boone" the past five years.
Vargas hugged them all.
"I saw them coming down the street and I'm thinking, 'This isn't good.' It's never good when you hear that many fire trucks or police coming," she told Daily Voice. "Then I come out and I see Santa coming off the fire truck!"
She said she felt "amazed, overwhelmed, loved."
The carolers continued singing by the family tree as Vargas and her children anxiously opened their gifts.
"How can you get any more joy than when you pull up and see all of these people here?" Boone said. "Having the people, the support the family needs so much during the holidays -- it's just a wonderful thing."
Vargas barely had time to eye a chain with a heart pendant from Santa before it was time to move.
"You have about 30 seconds to get your socks and shoes on," borough Human Services Coordinator Liz Maresca Twiggs told her, "because you're coming with us."
The group headed to the elaborately decorated Vanore Avenue home of Marc DeSomma, where cheerleaders from St. Ann's joined them amid cookies and techno Christmas music ( CLICK HERE ).
Vargas, 45, lost her job — and with it her insurance coverage — after being diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer this summer. She recently was approved for charity care but is still required to reimburse her former company for the insurance money that early on covered doctors appointments, medications and chemotherapy treatments.
"I know that I am blessed and extremely lucky for all that my children and I have," she told Daily Voice in September. "Through the bad there always is good, and it makes you appreciate the good much more....My blessings far outweigh anything that cancer throws my way."
The "Operation Santa Boone" crew decided to "adopt" Vargas after reading that story.
Mayor John Cosgrove said the event "shows our community spirit, the way Fair Lawn can come together and take care of those among us who need a little extra help."
"This one was definitely the most festive, the biggest party atmosphere we've had," said Twiggs, Santa's "senior elf assistant." "It's awesome."
"The families really lighten up," Police Sgt. Brian Metzler told Daily Voice. "It's exciting for them, and it's exciting for us."
Daily Voice Community Editor Matthew Speiser contributed to this story.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.