A Wall Streeter who brings Christmas to needy kids

The Santa Claus

Sometimes even Santa Claus needs a little help, especially when it comes to the kids who need that help the most.

For the past eight years, Santa's had a big helper in Alfred Zaccagnino, a private equity pro and low-key yuletide benefactor, In between traipsing around the globe making deals for investors, he finds time to bring good spirit and gifts to a neighborhood that otherwise might have a pretty blue Christmas.

Each year, he helps stage a holiday show and present distribution at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, which has two locations in the Bronx.

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Zaccagnino, president and founder of Samarian Group, is part of a makeshift network of do-gooders, many of whom are affiliated with the New York Yankees. Samarian's business interests cover the globe, with his most recent endeavors involving the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.

"As you get older it's all about giving," said the 46-year-old Zaccagnino, himself a former pro ball player whose career ended in the minors. "My greatest joy in life is putting smiles on other people's faces. Christmas is the time to give, especially to these kids in the Bronx that might have have the same kind of Christmas as kids in other towns."

His story is one of many that could be told about Wall Streeters quietly giving back to the community.

"For the last years, these kids would have not had a Christmas without him," said Ray Negron, an executive in the Yankee front office whose own story of growing up in a troubled neighborhood, then turning his life around and ending up as a high-ranking member of baseball's most storied organization, has been well-documented.

"We picked the poorest congressional district in the country," Negron said at an event last week at Kips Bay. "He makes sure every one of these kids get toys for Christmas."

They have plenty of help.

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Steven Van Zandt, the guitarist with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and actor in shows including "The Sopranos" and "Lilyhammer," was on hand for the event at Kips Bay, which boasts famous alumni including Jennifer Lopez and Kerry Washington.

"They do really good work," said Van Zandt, joined by his wife, Maureen, who also appeared in "The Sopranos." "We had no idea what to expect. This is really great to see."

The group's work goes on year-round. Zaccagnino was one of a group of givers honored over the summer for "Hank's Yanks," a youth baseball program overseen by Yankee owner Hank Steinbrenner.

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