READING, Pa. (AP) — Sal Vallone stood on the front steps of his house in tears as he watched the crowd in his yard singing Christmas carols that were meant just for him.
"This is unbelievable," said Vallone, 66, whose family runs a small child care center on Daniel Drive in Spring Township. "I didn't think I would be crying tonight, but you did it."
It has not been an easy year for Vallone, but he got a Christmas surprise that gave him hope. Vallone has been battling pancreatic cancer since July and the chemotherapy treatments have kept him from being with the children at the center.
On Sunday, a group of parents and their children surprised Vallone by candlelight with some songs of the holiday season.
Antonella Worley of Sinking Spring said the gesture was the parents' way of thanking Vallone and his family for always being there for them.
"Sal and his family treat our kids with care and love as if they were their own," Worley said. "Their commitment goes beyond just the hours their doors are open."
Every year, Vallone's family throws a big Christmas party for the families at the center, but Sal was unable to attend this year due to his cancer treatments. His daughter, Tiffany, said her father loves Christmas to the point that his wife, Sue, calls him "Mr. Christmas."
She said the Christmas caroling was the perfect surprise for her father.
"For everyone to come out for him is just very overwhelming," Tiffany said.
After about 30 minutes, the singing was over and some of the children began to look for a retreat from the cold. But before they left, Sal thanked them for his Christmas surprise and promised he would come back to the center in April once all the treatments are behind him.
"I love you all and I love all the kids," he said. "These are the things that keep me going."
Information from: Reading Eagle, http://www.readingeagle.com/