A Toy Story: Chapter 641's Santa Patrol
By Mokie Porter
Santa Patrol is a topic that surfaces all year long at
meetings of Chapter 641 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Chapter
members look forward to December because they know they have the
spirit, and they know of a place they can infect with that spirit.
They donate money, look for donations, and depend on the chapter’s
creativity to brighten the holidays for the veterans at the
Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center.
...A few years back when chapter members initiated this
project, they baked cookies and delivered them to the patients.
Mike Najarian remembers the first Christmas someone decided to
bring presents for the veterans.
"I asked them if they remembered the last time somebody had
given them a toy on Christmas Day," Najarian said. "I could see by
the look on their faces that they were searching their memories.
My gift was the smile on their faces when I produced a wrapped
package from behind my back."
"Some have families who visit, but others have families that
don’t want to visit. They just light up when they see us."
On Saturday morning, December 15, chapter members gathered at
the VVA National Office to wrap presents and assemble one hundred
packages of a couple pairs of white socks, pens, writing paper,
envelopes, a stamp, books, and toys. Art Wong, David Gudes (the
chapter’s newest member), Guy Hayslett, Mike Najarian, and chapter
president Mike Ditch worked as a jesting, joking, but
oh-so-efficient team wrapping the many gifts.
Jim Beckette brought yo-yos and other toys donated by the
Iranian congregation at the local Church of the Atonement. When
Mike Najarian made a pressman’s hat out of Christmas wrap, Rick
Weidman decided that a hundred were needed--one for each patient
at the VAMC.
Working late for three nights in a row, Sandy and Guy Hayslett
had assembled more than a hundred American flag pins by threading
beads onto brass pins. One by one, with red, white, and blue
Ann Marie and Roland Kauffman will make many dozens of cookies
as Santa Patrol approaches. There will be sugarless cookies as
well, Guy Haslett’s favorite kind. David Gudes brought flashlights
and boxes of pretzels, candies, and other treats--already wrapped,
complete with bows and whistles.
Christmas morning, Chapter 641's veterans and families will don
Santa hats, red noses, and flashing reindeer antlers and dance
through the halls and wards of Washington’s VA hospital,
delivering bright yellow VVA bags filled with holiday cheer to
those too sick to be at home.
The generosity for Santa Patrol this year even surprised
chapter members. Art Wong came up with the idea of taking the
extra toys to nearby Children’s Hospital. "We’ll put them in VVA
bags and give them to the sick children," he said.
As he headed out into the December air satisfied with the
success of the morning, Mike Ditch quipped, "We came, we saw, we
wrapped, we ran. See you at the Medical Center on Christmas Day!"