Operation HOHOHO brings the spirit of the season to young patients at KGH

Santa waves to the patients in Kingston General Hospital (KGH) as he arrives, bag of toys at the ready, thanks to transportation from 1 Wing Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) here in Kingston on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. Photo by Daniel Tastard-Homer/Kingstonist.

In what has become a treasured holiday tradition, Santa Claus stopped by Kingston General Hospital (KGH) earlier today, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, to spread gifts and good cheer to young patients and their families at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) site, thanks to the ongoing support of 1 Wing Headquarters.

Dubbed Operation HO HO HO, the annual visit saw Santa deliver specially designed Teddy Bears to pediatric patients at KHSC as a heartfelt gesture of support, according to a release from KHSC. This year, 47 Teddy Bears, purchased by the $2,000 raised by Headquarters’ staff, were delivered to the hospital with compassion and whimsy, the hospital organization shared.

“Every year, Op HOHOHO remains a cherished tradition for 1 Wing’s members. We look forward to this event as it allows us to come together with the community,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Joel Maley, 1 Wing Headquarters Commanding-Officer. “Through our joint efforts, in close collaboration with Kingston Health Sciences Center, we create a positive impact on the children and their families, brightening their days and leaving a lasting impression. These small acts of kindness bring comfort to young hearts in their time of need, reminding them that they are never alone in their journey to recovery.”

Due to the weather, Santa’s operation looked a bit different this year. Santa’s usual mode of travel for the event — a Griffon helicopter — was grounded, and instead, he was escorted by his team of elves from 1 Wing Headquarters in a G Wagon (Light Utility Vehicle Wheeled.) 

They circled the helipad, then Santa and his elves exited the vehicle, waved to all the children looking out the windows of the pediatric unit and proceeded to go inside to visit and deliver gifts, KHSC stated, noting that this special touch allowed the patients to watch Santa and his elves from the safety and comfort of their own rooms.

“Project HoHoHo brings the spirit of the holidays to children who are missing out on activities at home,” said Erika Kooi, program manager of Pediatrics, NICU and Child Life with KHSC. “It allows them and their families to build lasting good memories of a challenging time in their life. The magic this event brings is felt by the staff, patients, and families within pediatrics and the entire organization.”

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