Santa supporters turn out for Black Cat fundraiser

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Robert Kusnirik couldn’t remember his last picture with Santa.
ABSECON – Some dads take their kids to ballgames or hockey games, but when Adam Berardo takes his son out, they do the playing.

The entertainment at the Santa in the Park fundraiser Sunday, March 25 was provided gratis by Berardo – known professionally as 1Adam12 – and his son Niko.

“We live in Absecon,” Berardo said. “We heard about this. It’s a great event.”

Niko Berardo, 13, is a seventh-grader at the Emma C. Attales Middle School.

“I really enjoy playing with my dad,” he said. “I like playing a lot.”

His father said he is doing the same thing he has been doing for years – playing the smaller clubs in the Atlantic City area – and putting together a band.

“I’ve got a band coming together now,” Berardo said. “I hope we have some plans to announce soon.”

He’s on the Internet at

The duo played guitar and sang – some songs familiar, some original by 1Adam12 – from early to late afternoon as people came in to donate toward the event that will transform Heritage Park from a walking path by a lake into a winter wonderland for the huge Christmas party being thrown by the Absecon City Volunteer Fire Department.

Santa was big on Sunday.

In fact he was so big that Fire Chief Joe Smith couldn’t tell just how tall he was.

“Santa’s out front greeting people,” Smith said of a giant inflatable Claus that waved with the wind at passers-by in front if the Black Cat Tavern on Shore Road at the White Horse Pike.

The Berardos weren’t the only artists participating.

Mark Morrissette, who specializes in pet painting, donated two portraits – one of a yellow lab, the other a golden eagle – for door prizes.

“I work for the Smiths at Ace Hardware,” Morrissette said. “I’m the merchandise manager and buyer. They have six stores, in Galloway, Egg Harbor Township, Northfield, Brigantine, Vineland and Atlantic City.”

And while art is a hobby, Morrissette is more than a casual hobbyist.

He has degrees in business and art from Brockport State University of New York and a music degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

Morrissette carries two business cards. One is for Marks Art Place for animal portraits and custom art and the other is for Mark E. Morrissette business management consulting. Call him at (609) 377-5083 for either service.

“Santa in the Park is a great concept,” Morrissette said. “It started last year and I’m glad to be able to contribute toward making it even bigger this year.”

“We’re doing OK,” Smith said as the afternoon progressed. “This is just the start. We’re going to have events all through the year building up to Santa in the Park.”

He said he doesn’t expect the fire department to be alone as hosts in 2012.

“I plan to speak to any group that will listen,” Smith said. “I’m interested in having them do whatever they’d like to in the park.”

He said other potential fundraisers include running the concession stand for a couple of the summer concerts in Heritage Park.

The department doesn’t have a set amount of money it’s trying to raise, Smith said. As things progress, more decorations will be added and there will be more things for people to do.

The fire department meets 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays at the firehouse, New Road and New Jersey Avenue. To donate toward Santa in the Park just drop by, call (609) 377-7512 or mail to 401 New Jersey Ave., Absecon, NJ 08201.

Photos by Steve Prisament

Niko Berardo, 13, and his father, Adam Berardo, who performs as 1Adam12, provide the music.

Fire Chief Joe Smith, left, shares a laugh with Robert Kusnirik.

City Council President Jerry Falivene joins his daughter Lexie, a firefighter.

From left, auxiliary members Cindy Smith, Fran Madge and Lorraine Hurd sell tickets.

Artist Mark Morrissette stands next to two paintings he donated as door prizes.

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