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
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.
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.
"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.
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."