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RED TAPE OF ADOPTION TURNS INTO RIBBON FOR FAMILY'S GIFT

Over the weekend, 5-year-old Nicholas Scherer expressed his latest Christmas dream to his parents, Richard and Cheryl.

"Wouldn't it be a miracle if it snowed on the day we adopted J.J.?" Nicholas asked.

At 6 a.m. Monday, Nicholas awoke to the sight of snow on the ground.

"It's a miracle," he told his parents. "It's a miracle."

His parents also were calling it a miracle, but they weren't talking about the snow.

On Monday morning, Nicholas' little brother, J.J. -- now known as Jonathan Joseph Scherer -- officially joined the family when Erie County Family Court Judge Anthony P. LoRusso granted the adoption order for the 1-year-old J.J.

Last month, Nicholas told his parents that what he really wanted for Christmas was to adopt J.J., a mentally retarded foster child who has been living with the family almost since his birth. The Scherers' Christmas story was told in The Buffalo News on Dec. 16.

"I don't think it's very often that a little kid says he doesn't want a G.I. Joe for Christmas, that he wants a little brother," Mrs. Scherer said.

"I'll bet Judge LoRusso didn't think he was going to play Santa Claus today," she said Monday, as her four children -- Nicholas; Emily, 4; Abbie, 1; and J.J. -- mugged for a camera, munched candy canes and modeled their new Junior Deputy Sheriff's badges.

"It's the happiest of Christmas Eves," LoRusso added, "when a marvelous family like this adds a new member."

The real miracle for the Scherers came when their story touched enough bureaucrats' hearts to sandwich a one- or two-year adoption process into two months. As late as last Thursday morning, the Scherers thought the paperwork couldn't be finished in time for Christmas.

But thanks to a final appeal to the Erie County Social Services Department and the social workers on the case, the Scherers and attorney Carl Tronolone managed to get everything completed in time for Monday's adoption.

One of the last pieces of the puzzle, state approval of J.J.'s medical benefits as a handicapped child, was completed in 45 minutes on Thursday. Normally, it takes six weeks.

"Nobody wanted to be the Grinch before Christmas," Tronolone said.

Nicholas, never one to turn down an interview request, already had some Christmas plans for his little brother.

"I get to hang him in a Christmas stocking for Christmas Eve," he said. "That would be funny."

Nicholas already has done well with his first two wishes, getting his new brother and snow on the ground for Christmas.

As his family left Family Court late Monday morning, he dared to utter his third wish:

"Dad, can we get a Happy Meal at McDonald's?"

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