For one day every year for the past three decades, Terence Mulvey was Santa Claus.
The North Riverdale resident would collect donations to buy toys and then don the iconic red-and-white suit to hand them out to children at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
“When Terence was delivering these toys, it was a miracle,” said Richard Walsh, his best friend and partner in running the toy drive.
“He didn’t go by and just throw toys in the room. This guy stood with kids and talked to some of them (for) 10 or 15 minutes, made sure they were OK. Every size, shape and color. He really believed he was Santa when he was in that uniform.”
Before heading to the hospital every year, Terry — as he was widely known — held a benefit at a local pub so he could raise enough money to buy the toys. For years, Terry partnered with the now-closed Pauline’s bar on Broadway to host the benefit — which he called “Toys for Children.” And then moved the event to the nearby Mr. McGoo’s Pub when Pauline’s shuttered.
These yearly benefits almost became a reunion for Terry, Walsh and others who grew up with them in Kingsbridge.
But this year, Terry won’t go to the benefit. He won’t make the rounds at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. He died after fighting a 10-year battle with cancer said to be caused by his rescue efforts at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, 2001.
Even without Terry, Walsh knew the fundraiser must go on in his late friend’s memory, renaming it the “Terence Mulvey Toys for Children Foundational Benefit.”
Running the toy drive wasn’t easy, Walsh said. But Terry was always determined to make sure every sick child in that hospital got a present.
“It’s a very difficult, long process,” Walsh said. “We’re walking through this hospital floor after floor after floor. Hundreds and hundreds of kids that we see. We miss some because they’re out taking a test, so we have to go back to that floor. (But) every kid was seen before we left that hospital every time.”
Even when Terry himself became very sick, that didn’t stop him from delivering the presents in-person.
While Terry’s contributions to the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital were a huge part of his legacy, his impact went far beyond one hospital. First and foremost, Terry was a family man, says his brother Danny Mulvey, devoted to his six siblings and parents growing up on Long Island. That steadfastness then turned to his wife Erin and children Caoilfhionn and Ian
When they were growing up, Terry was known for his strength as well as his skill as a fighter. But he never used that strength to bully or hurt others, Danny said. Instead, he was a protector who was always there to help.
It’s probably that very instinct that led Terry to join the New York Police Department in 1983.
“Then going into the NYPD it was almost like (it was) made for him,” Danny said. “Because you go there (to) protect and serve. It was the perfect job for someone like him.”
Terry worked in various precincts around the city before earning the rank of detective in 1999. One of his longer assignments was with the security detail for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Over the time Terry guarded the former mayor’s family, he became close with Giuliani’s children, Andrew and Caroline.
Terry had a particular impact on Andrew, who’s vying to lead the Republican ticket in next year’s race for the governor’s mansion. The two developed an almost father-son like relationship, Giuliani told The Riverdale Press, often playing sports together in Gracie Mansion’s backyard.
“He was a mentor to me,” Giuliani said. “He really helped me with a lot of my schoolwork on school nights. And then he was intent on making sure that I completed my schoolwork before we went out in the backyard and played whatever the sport of the day was.”
Once he retired from the NYPD, Terry got his master’s degree in education from Lehman College. He taught at St. Margaret of Cortona in North Riverdale as well as Incarnation High School in Washington Heights. Not long after, Terry became the assistant principal of student affairs at Cardinal Hayes High School in the South Bronx, where he worked the past seven years.
Terry’s main job at Cardinal Hayes was serving in a disciplinary role, working with kids who were chronically absent or struggling in other ways. Cardinal Hayes’ principal William Lessa described Terry as very skilled at connecting with students.
He “would work with them to try to get them to kind of understand a little bit about why all this stuff was necessary for them later on in life,” Lessa said. “So, he was very impactful in working with kids because he had a tremendous amount of empathy and a tremendous amount of kindness and understanding. And at the same time, he managed to keep a strict profile about what his job was and what he was doing.”
During his time with the NYPD, Terry founded “Toys for Children.” With Walsh’s help, Terry steadily expanded the size and reach of the charity, eventually partnering with Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
Before he passed away, Terry asked Walsh to continue running the charity after he was gone. But while Walsh will keep holding the fundraiser each year, he’s not sure if he can continue dressing up and delivering toys in-person without Terry.
“It’ll be very hard to (do) it without him,” Walsh said. “So, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it next year, God willing. But I don’t know if we can do it without him, to tell you the truth.”