Spent an evening in the true Christmas spirit recently at Gia, the Wildwood restaurant named after the late daughter of Vincent and Beth Chiarella, who own and operate the popular Italian dining spot.
The occasion was the 14th annual tagging of the veritable sea of Christmas toys that are donated by the extended Wildwoods community and filled the entire vestibule of the establishment and threatened to overflow onto the restaurant floor. Each year since Gia’s death from cancer at Cooper Hospital in Camden, the Chiarellas – Vince, Beth, and daughter Mia – have collected toys for kids at Cooper as a way of keeping the memory of their daughter alive and commemorating the wonderful care she received at Cooper, as well as bringing Christmas cheer and gifts to children currently at Cooper. Actually, the toys are given out all year long, and there is even a dedicated space at the hospital for their storage.
“A Gift From Gia” reads the tags that were affixed to over a thousand toys by a score of volunteer elves and the restaurant was a scene of happy organized chaos as the toys were tagged, boxed, and carried out to a waiting U-Haul truck that would make the trip to Camden, under the supervision of Mia Chiarella, who said that each year she feels “like Santa Claus” when she arrives with her four-wheeled sleigh in Camden.
It was blessed evening of true sharing in the deepest spirit of Christmas. It is a fine tradition from a caring family and a sharing community.