A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

December 2001/January 2002

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 beads.

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!"


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