The big guy in the red suit descended from the crystal clear skies over Pasadena and made a perfect landing on the roof of Huntington Memorial Hospital, where he was greeted by a crowd of kids and their families.
Santa Claus greeting kids.
Nothing unusual about that.
But instead of swooping down in his usual reindeer-driven sleigh, Santa’s mode of transport was a helicopter.
With Interim Pasadena Police Chief John Perez donning a red Santa hat and serving as the lead elf, and a group of flight suit clad elves lending support, Santa and Mrs. Claus delivered gifts and good cheer to the children from the hospital’s pediatric ward.
The festive scene was the highlight of the 13th annual Christmas toy drive at the pediatric ward of Huntington Memorial, organized by the Pasadena Police Air Operations Section and the Foothill Air Support Team.
“Every year we look forward to this,” Perez said. “It brings smiles to the families and young children. It really lift their spirits. For the department, it lifts ours. It brings smiles to our faces. Everyone is excited about being here. It’s a great connection and for many of us at the hospital and police department it is a bond that is important for us to have.”
Santa handed out stuffed animals and toys on the hospital roof while staff and family members of the young patients captured the moment on their cell phones.
“She’s just excited,” said Edward Sanchez, whose 9 year old daughter Mia was gifted with a toy stuffed penguin. “Under the circumstances, it’s nice. …. very nice. It makes a difference. I got the first smile in two days.”
Employees and officer associations of Pasadena PD, Foothill Air Support Team and other public safety agencies throughout the San Gabriel Valley held toy drives and made monetary donations to fund the event.
“It’s no fun to be in the hospital over the holidays,” said Dorey Huston, manager of public relations for Huntington Memorial. “So if you have to be here, it makes the long days a little bit more exciting.”
The gifts are not only given out during the Christmas season, Huston said, but distributed to pediatric patients throughout the year.
“It’s a very generous gesture,” she said.
From the hospital, Santa and the flight crew made their way to the Pasadena PD Air Operations heliport where they partnered with the nonprofit Peace Over Violence in hosting a group of children impacted by domestic violence.
Peace Over Violence offers programs and services aimed at fighting domestic violence and child abuse.
Pasadena PD Lt. Mike Ingram of the Air Operations Section is a key organizer for the day-long festivities
“This is really a regional effort for all the cities,” Ingram said.