Just before Christmas 2011, Sgt. Craig Harris of the Asheville-based Highway Patrol Troop G called Mission Hospital and asked what he could do to brighten the spirits of hospitalized children. The answer? Come in uniform and bring them toys. He did, and the event was fun for all. “We had to do it again, it was so much fun,” said Harris.
This year, Sgt. Harris and four of his troopers were joined by the Enka-Candler fire department who brought Sparky the fire dog with them. “Over $4,000 in toys were collected at the Dollar General Store on Smoky Park Highway,” said Enka-Candler Assistant Fire Chief Joshua Howard. “We have been able to help over 100 kids here in town”
The troopers and the firefighters roamed around the pediatric unit and brightened spirits of kids and staff. A tricycle race broke out with one young man and a trooper while other troopers pulled over a red wagon to check its registration in the main hallway. (Actually, they were really just admiring the snazzy paint job.)
Before heading for the rooms, the piles of toys were sorted by age. Sgt. Harris came prepared with knit hats for the newborns and walkie-talkies for the teens.
In one room Emorie Whitman, 14, of Tryon was looking forward to the visit. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma a year ago, she has been in and out of the hospital most of the past year. She got a fuzzy lamb, but then saw the toy cars and asked for one of those. Trooper Barry Burnette gladly obligied. Her smile was still lighting up the room when Sparky came to visit later.
“This year, the floor is full,” said Tara Horan, area supervisor. “Our census has stayed right at max [of 27] all fall. The kids love to see the guys in uniform come, especially bringing toys. It is a high point.”
The low point? The trooper lost the tricycle race. He will not live that one down for a long, long time.
Giving Sparky a high five.
Christian Moore poses with her new friends.
State Troopers pass out toys at Mission Hospital.