NEWS

Guardsmen give dozens of gifts to kids at hospital

Sgt. Michael L. Owens Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
NEW ORLEANS – Members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing bring toys to each patient at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans during their annual toy giveaway, Dec. 9, 2010. Approximately 20 volunteers assigned to the 159th Fighter Wing in Belle Chasse purchased more than 200 gifts for patients at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS – During the busy holiday season, members of the Louisiana National Guard took time to spread cheer to local children in need as Santa’s camouflaged helpers, Dec. 9.

Approximately 20 volunteers assigned to the 159th Fighter Wing in Belle Chasse purchased more than 200 gifts for patients at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.

“The kids are so excited whenever they get special visitors like the Guardsmen,” said Nicole Marinello, a special events coordinator for the hospital. “It means a lot to our patients, and it brings them joy to get presents from the (troops).”

For the second year in a row, the Guardsmen brought gifts for the kids who spend a lot of their time in and out of the hospital receiving treatment for various illnesses.

“We do it because we want to be a blessing to these kids,” said Capt. Latasha Goines of New Orleans, who spearheaded this event. “We want them to have the same Christmas joy as healthy kids.”

The sound of laughter echoed through the hallways as the Airmen knocked on each door to present the children with special gifts ranging from coloring books to footballs.

“Wow, I am so excited!” said 10-year-old Aliyah, who is suffering from a skin condition. With a huge smile she added, “I’ve been here for a while and never received anything like this.”

The staff members said it is important to have volunteers during these tough times because the gifts help lift the burden parents carry during this time of the year.

“It not only helps to spread cheer to the patients but to the parents as well,” said Marinello. “It is nice to have the Guard bring Christmas to kids who are unable to experience the holidays outside of the hospital.”

NEW ORLEANS - Staff Sgt. Valerie Ortego of the Louisiana National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing brings gifts to a patient at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans during their annual toy giveaway, Dec. 9, 2010. Approximately 20 volunteers assigned to the 159th Fighter Wing in Belle Chasse purchased more than 200 gifts for patients at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.