• Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jack West
  • 134ARW/PA
"Santa's here!" The words heard over and over as members of the Santa Cops procession delivered presents to patients, their siblings, and the staff at East Tennessee Children's Hospital on Dec. 5, 2009.  The brainchild of Senior Master Sgt. Steven Payne and Master Sgt. Richard Parker, the Santa Cops program began as a project for the 134th Security Forces Squadron in 1999. Now, ten years later, the 134th SFS still spearheads the program with incredible support from throughout the McGhee Tyson ANGB community. The recipient of voluntary donations from on and off base, the Santa Cops program brought in over $18,000.00 in 2009.  According to Master Sgt. Parker, the night before the visit to the hospital, shoppers purchased gifts for the forty-six children the ETCH staff had estimated would be present on delivery day. More than fifty people showed up to show how much they care and help make the requested purchases and to get a few extra things they thought the kids would like. ETCH staff give an estimate of how many gifts will be needed, but the exact number is never known until delivery day - and it's usually a lot more. This year, gifts were given to over one hundred twenty-five children.  In past years, in excess of one hundred participants from all over McGhee Tyson have descended on the hospital on delivery day to help spread cheer. This year, due to the H1N1 Flue pandemic, hospital staff had to limit the Santa Cops procession to just fifteen people. Santa, his elves, and a few close friends were all that were able to go from room-to-room.  Although less people were able to participate in deliveringthe presents, the amount of joy experienced by those receiving the gifts was not diminished.  Shouts of "Oh boy!", "Look!" and "Just what I asked Santa for!" were heard as packages were unwrapped and hoped for gifts were revealed. A few patients and their families were so overwhelmed they were speechless. Many parents could do nothing more than just cry at the joy and love extended to their child, but Jenny S., whose daughter was undergoing surgery at ETCH, summed up the thoughts of many of those present. "To see the kids' eyes light up was just great and brought lots of joy." A lot of conversations were heard around the base the day after the gifts were delivered as people told of their experiences delivering gifts and telling how they plan to be involved next year. A great example of how the members of the 134th ARW are active in the community, Santa Cops will continue in 2010.