Santa Claus received a little help from some unlikely elves Wednesday when mayors and representatives from more than a dozen cities participated in a motorcade-style parade through the campus of Georgia Regional Hospital to deliver Christmas gifts for patients.
Cheering with joy, patients lined the campus streets as dignitaries from Waycross to Metter passed through and sirens from police cars and fire trucks filled the air during the 2011 Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade. Even louder cheers erupted when Santa rolled through waving and shouting "Merry Christmas."
On hand to participate in the event were Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Frasier, Councilman David Anderson, State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, and city employees Sarah Lumpkin, Niesha Williams and Holly Stevens.
The Hinesville group dropped off several bags of gifts on behalf of the city.
The motorcade is an annual event in which cities throughout the state take donated gifts to patients at Georgia’s mental-health hospitals. The hundreds of gifts dropped off Wednesday at Georgia Regional Hospital provide resources that Hospital Administrator Charles Li said patients may not have otherwise.
"The mayors’ motorcade has been a wonderful program to support individuals in our hospital," Li said. "A lot of them don’t have the financial stability or support from their family because of their mental illness. It makes a difference around Christmas because they don’t have anything."
Donated gifts included personal-care items such as toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, shampoo and more. Clothing, board games, card games, movies and music also were donated, and Li described the gift giving as both spiritual and material support.
"It’s important the care they get from the community — that way they know they aren’t forgotten," he said.
It will take a few days to sort through all the "wonderful gifts," volunteer Beth Leino said as she glanced around at all the items. Leino has volunteered with the motorcade for 10 years and said "doing something special for people who really deserve it" is the most rewarding part.
Li said volunteers and Santa will be on hand on Christmas day to pass out the gifts to patients.
For more information on the motorcade, go to www.gmanet.com/motorcade.aspx.