Children of all ages received a visit from Santa Claus, two Mrs. Clauses, Frosty and the Grinch Dec. 17 at the Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children.
"We usually get a couple of letters from parents each year," said Carrie Bullard, child life coordinator for the children's hospital, about the visit to the unit's 150 beds. "They are so appreciative of other people thinking about their child — especially during the holidays."
Fairfax County Police Officer Scott Bates said the police department first began collecting and donating toys to the hospital 16 years ago in 1988.
"All the local police departments have boxes," said Bates. "We have eight different district stations and there is a box at each station."
Bates said in addition to the police contributions, other Fairfax County government agencies have joined the cause over the years including the Fairfax County Bar Association — at the prompting of attorney Michael Cantrell — and car dealers Ourisman Toyota and Koons GMC in Tysons Corner.
"It was started by [a Fairfax County police officer] to help kids who couldn't go home for the holidays," said Bates. "The toys will also go to the Hispanic Community Committee of Virginia, the Ronald McDonald House and other causes."
Because of its popularity, Bates said this year the group had to spend two days gathering the toys, which he and Master Police Officer George Lopez estimated the value at approximately $5,000 if not more.
In the halls of the hematology and oncology wing of the children's hospital, patients called out thank you to Santa as he walked past on his way to the next child.
"The best gift of this event is the children getting excited," said Bullard. "They always seem to bring the right things."
Bullard added, for the children with chronic and long-term illnesses like cystic fibrosis and cancer therapies, the hospital sent in special requests for gifts.
"We had a request for a bike and they were able to bring one," she said, adding some toys will be left for Christmas Day when the nurses will give them to children in the hospital. "We try really hard too to make every child feel special."