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Santa comes to Children's Hospital

By admin Published: December 25, 2011

At one point, all 3-year-old Logan Johnson wanted for Christmas was a pack of underwear. But by Saturday, he had upgraded that request to a ''choo-choo train.''

The Randolph Township boy was among hundreds of patients and visitors at Akron Children's Hospital to get a personal visit from Santa Claus, aka Cuyahoga Falls Patrolman. Greg Kenepp.

Flanked by an army of elves, St. Nick made his annual visit to the sickest of the sick at Children's via the hospital's Care Bear helicopter.

Santa and chief elf Judy Pruett of Hudson flew in to Perkins Square Park in front of the hospital to greet Logan and some other children, including offspring of hospital staffers, who were well enough to stand the brisk winter air.

Then Santa and his assistants went indoors to visit those who were too sick to make it out of their rooms.

Santa was careful not to make any promises, especially when one little girl asked for a hamster.

He was more receptive when Logan shyly asked for a train at the side of his mother, Barbara Tracey.

''Make a note of that,'' he told Pruett, who was clad in lime-green pants and shirt and red and white striped socks.

This was the zenith of a month's work for members of the hospital's volunteer office.

They sorted gifts donated by well-wishers for children of every age and sex. They made cloth finger puppets, wrapped hundreds of presents and loaded them onto four carts so that the elves would have easy access to the gifts that Santa would need as he visited room after room.

This is Karen King's 28th year volunteering with the Christmas program and 38th year of volunteering at the hospital.

''God has been good to me,'' the Akron resident said. ''This is my holiday, making children's holidays a little better.''

Blankets, coloring books and crayons, stuffed animals, hoodies and gift certificates for teens – Santa had everything that children could want. Volunteers huddled with staff to match children with the right gifts whenever possible.

For Luke Smith, a 10-year-old from New London, Santa brought an iPod nano. Mrs. Claus, aka Cindy Duncan, supervisor of the hospital's Reinberger Family Center, said she tries to steer the relatively extravagant presents to children who have been hospitalized the longest or are frequently hospitalized.

Luke qualified on that count and said he had been good throughout the year. He said his worst failing was that he once woke his mother up from a nap to ask whether a friend could come over and play.

For other children, Santa's appearance was slightly bewildering – and in many cases, he was not what they really wanted.

Santa brought Jainaijah Wheeler, 3, of Akron, a doll. But her real desire was to go home and see her siblings, her mom, Candice Coachman, said.

Jainaijah has been hospitalized since Nov. 17 and will not be released from the hospital until after the new year.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.

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