Story by:  Capt. Shawn James, 447th Air Support Group 5th Air Wing, PAO and Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, PAO

Posted:  December 24, 2015

Delivering toys
Texas State Guard 8th Regiment, Army Component Command, soldiers Sgt. Sasha Shepard and Staff Sgt. Anna Reyes presented Patrick with new toy trucks while he recovers in Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, Houston, Texas, December 21, 2015.  Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys for hundreds of children.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, TXSG, PAO/Released)

HOUSTON - Santa got a lot of  help from the Texas State Guard Army Component Command 8th Regiment, 5th Air Wing 447th Air Support Group, and the Texas Maritime Regiment 1st Battalion by delivering Christmas toys to children aged 2 months to 16 years old in Houston area hospitals, December 21, 2015.

Delivering toys
Texas State Guard soldiers, Sgt. Sasha Shepard, Staff Sgt. Anna Reyes, Sgt. Greg Illich, 8th Regiment Army Component Command, Tech. Sgt. Rhueben Towne, 447th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing, Pvt. Dwayne Holt, 8th Regiment, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Horowitz,  1st Battalion, Texas Maritime Regiment, delivered Christmas toys to Everett at a Houston area children's hospital, who was also celebrating her birthday, December 21, 2015.  Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys for hundreds of children.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, TXSG, PAO/Released)

In total, the Houston area Guardsmen collected 3,658 toys for the "Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive" and delivered the toys to children at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, Texas Children's Hospital and Shriner's Hospital for Children-Houston.

Tech. Sgt. Rhueben Towne, 447th Air Support Group, coordinated the toy drive and worked with local hospitals and Houston area Texas State Guard units to set up collection points all over the city.

Towne's wife, Charlotte, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Horowitz, Texas Maritime Regiment 1st Battalion,  and Pvt. Dwayne Holt, 8th Regiment, collected almost 700 toys by themselves.  Houston schools and businesses and the residents of Houston donated hundreds of toys.  

Sugar Land Fire Station No. 6, Sugar Land, Texas, kindly allowed the Guardsmen to sort the toys by age groups in the fire station.

At the first hospital the soldiers, acting as Santa's elves, went room to room and into the emergency room at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital delivering toys and visiting with children and their families. They left toys in the children's play area, leaving enough toys to last until next year.  

The soldiers not only delivered toys but also sang Happy Birthday to one patient who was celebrating his seventh birthday.  

delivering toys
Cpl. Justin Stanton, 8th Regiment, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, delivers a new toy truck to two-year-old Mason during the "Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive" at a Houston area children's hospital, December 21, 2015.  Mason was the first child in the hospital to receive a toy this year.  Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys for hundreds of children.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, TXSG, PAO/Released)

"It was a great experience to see all three Texas State Guard units come together and bring joy to the faces of the children," commented Tech. Sgt. Towne.  "We will take as much time as necessary from toy pickups to delivering toys to make the holiday a special time for the children."

At Shriners Children’s Hospital, soldiers delivered 1,200 toys so that the hospital staff could set up its version of Christmas shopping for the families of patients. Parents will be able to look for just the right gifts for their children.  Then the hospital staff will wrap each toy and Santa will deliver the toys on Christmas morning.  

"It means a lot to our patients," commented Elizabeth Ferrer, a representative of Shriners Children's Hospital.  "The greater meaning is that the kids know someone outside the hospital is thinking of them."

At Texas Children's Hospital, soldiers delivered hundreds of toys that the hospital staff and Santa will hand out to the children at a party Christmas Day.

loading toys
Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys during the "Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive." Soldiers from the 8th Regiment, 1st Lt. Skip Matthews, Staff Sgt. Anna Reyes, Cpl. Justin Stanton and Sgt. Sasha Shepard, loaded the toys into the delivery truck bound for three Houston area children's hospitals, December 21, 2015.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by: Capt. Shawn James, 447th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing, TXSG,  PAO/Released)

With all the toys finally delivered, Chaplain Douglas Richardson (Lt. Cmdr.), Texas Maritime Regiment, felt humbled by the experience.  "As chaplain, it is a privilege to share the real meaning of giving and the spirit of soldiers of the Texas State Guard."