By Mike Oliver
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Santa choppered in.
Dressed in familiar garb, Mr. Claus exited the blue Alabama State Trooper helicopter after it landed this afternoon on the old Children’s Hospital helipad. Across the way, at the new Children’s of Alabama hospital dozens of young patients were watching through their hospital room windows as the scene unfolded.
Two big red bags of what looked like toys were then taken off the chopper as Santa waved at the kids.
It was just the beginning of a carefully orchestrated 16-helicopter parade featuring law enforcement agencies across the state, taking turns, one-by-one, landing, and dropping off bags — all for the benefit of the children.
In all, the law enforcement agencies collected more than 2,000 toys for sick children.
“This is not about us, it’s about those children looking out the windows,” said Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton, looking on from the rooftop helipad.
Law enforcement helicopters deliver toys to Children’s of Alabama hospital for Christmas
Children’s of Alabama hospital held their first ever Operation Toy Drop where representatives from state law enforcement agencies will arrive via 16 helicopters at Children’s of Alabama and will land in succession every few minutes. Each chopper will be filled with toys and games the agencies have collected over the past several weeks. The toys will be donated to the hospital’s Sugar Plum Shop, which is a special holiday shop for families who have a child hospitalized during the holidays.
The idea for law enforcement to collect toys and chopper them into Children’s came from Dale County Chief Deputy Tim McDonald, who was one of the pilots this afternoon, said Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson.
For logistical reasons, the toys were actually brought in earlier – thousands of them – using ground transportation. The helicopters were actually simulating the toy delivery for the sake of the onlooking children. The toys will be distributed through the hospital’s Sugar Plum Shop to patients as Christmas approaches.
Olson said he was amazed at the response of the community in donating the toys. For example, he said a small rural Neighborhood Watch group in his county brought in about 75 toys. In all he said his county probably contributed a thousand toys.
“We can’t thank law enforcement enough for being the catalyst for this first-ever event,” said Wynne Speir, a Children’s community action coordinator.
Santa’s been busy at Children’s this week. Tuesday, he was visiting bed-ridden children via video-chat technology.
“Times are hard for everybody,” said Coffee County Sheriff Sutton. “But when it comes to a child, people open their hearts.”
The 16 helicopters flying into Children’s today in order of appearance were: Alabama State Troopers; Children’s of Alabama Care Flight; Lifesaver; Hoover Police Department; Chilton County Sheriff’s Office; Coffee County Sheriff’s Office; Limestone County Sheriff’s Office; Etowah County Sheriff’s Office; Dale County Sheriff’s Office; Morgan County Sheriff’s Office; Cullman Police Department; Dale County Sheriff’s Office (second helicopter); Marshall County Sheriff’s Office; Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office; Tuscaloosa Police Department; and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.