Santas Lavish Gifts on Pediatric Patients
It was the assault of the Santas on Dec. 16 as one version of Mr. Claus entertained at the recreation therapy section's holiday party on the 14th floor of Bldg. 10, and another Claus (really Chief Tom Rufty of the NIH Police) sped over to the hospital aboard an NIH fire engine and hand-delivered some 10 gifts to each of 25 young patients in their rooms on various pediatric units.
Together with the NIH Fire Department, the NIH Police collected some 500 toys in a pre-Christmas drive organized by Lt. Lawrence Brown and Sonja Young. "We had just a ton of toys -- the room we stored them in was jammed full," said O.W. "Jim" Sweat, director of the Division of Public Safety. His staff delivered gifts not only to children in their rooms at the hospital, but also at the Children's Inn and a play area on the hospital's 14th floor.
Because a few of the youngsters were in treatment at the time of Santa Rufty's visit, he dispatched a sergeant later in the day, clad in the Claus costume, to visit kids missed on the first trip.
Another officer dressed as Santa brought gifts to the few children who had to spend Christmas Day at the hospital or inn.
"I think the kids were Santa Claused to death," chuckled Rufty, who expressed some dismay over the confusion of twin Santas alighting on the CC in the same day. He was also mildly ruffled by the fire truck ride over to Bldg. 10 -- his first excursion on such a vehicle. "I'm too old and fat for this kind of thing."
Rufty said he was touched by the large number of children who wrote to him thanking him and the other officers and fire fighters for their generosity. "A lot of them were really rather cute," he said.
The gifts, collected from NIH'ers who left them at the police desk, were sorted according to which age group would most appreciate them, he said. As he handed them out, one by one, an assistant took photos of the grateful recipients, and left them with the kids as mementos.
Rufty said the experience was "really sort of heart rending" for his staff, but also deeply rewarding. "It's nice to let the community know we do more than just write tickets and arrest people," he said. Santa couldn't have put it any better.
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