Hospital has holiday cheer on Christmas Eve

102ToyDylanBurton2Thumb.jpgThey dashed down the halls faster than Dancer, Prancer and Rudolph delivering gifts on a cold December night.

by Elyse Kaner

Staff writer

They dashed down the halls faster than Dancer, Prancer and Rudolph delivering gifts on a cold December night.


Dylan Burton, 2, of Ramsey received a surprise visit and some toys, including a toy horse which he loved, Christmas Eve from members of the Coon Rapids police and fire departments. (Photo by Elyse Kaner)

But it wasn’t Santa doing the giving.

It was a trio of city of Coon Rapids workers handing out ponies. Stuffed ponies and peace bears and blue Beanie dogs guaranteed to bring smiles to all good girls and boys – adults too – on Christmas Eve.

For the eighth year in a row, the Coon Rapids Police Department, joined for the second year by the Coon Rapids Fire Department, brought cheer to kids at Mercy Hospital during the holidays.

Coon Rapids Police Officer Bryan Platz, who started the effort eight years ago with now retired Police Officer Marty Heilman, gathered his green plastic sack filled with toys in a Santa-like move and slung it over his shoulder.

And he was off to the pediatrics ward with his two buddies Firefighter John Fick and Lauri Ebel, Coon Rapids Police Department crime prevention specialist.

“It would be terrible to be in a hospital on Christmas Eve,” Platz said. “It’s a lonely place. Anything to make them feel better.”

They stopped people with kids on the elevator, in the halls, going out the doors.

They gave them pencils, Minnesota Wild trading cards and sticker badges. They visited hospital rooms spreading good cheer. A quick conversation about football or soccer and they were off to the next room.

“You look like you could use a pony,” they said. And despite the patients’ pain, they all managed a smile. And a cheery Merry Christmas.

But the merry trio didn’t stop at the patients. They gave toy horses and bears to some of the staff working on Christmas Eve. For your kids, they said. Or your grandkids.

For good measure, they threw in red and green suckers with the words “We Care.”

This was Fick’s first time handing out toys. He particularly liked seeing the kids’ smiles.

“I loved it,” he said. “It’s giving back. “It’s a good feeling. It’s Christmas.”

Platz knows more than ever what it’s like to be in the hospital. He spent two weeks in the ICU last year with his son, who was born with muscular dystrophy.

“We appreciated it when friends came by,” he said. “It put everything into perspective.”

Ebel recalls the year they visited a child fighting meningitis. Her father was serving in Iraq.

“It was really sad,” she said. But their visit managed to cheer up the child.

Despite the downturn in the economy, businesses came through with generous toy donations.

Wells Fargo in Coon Rapids and Hallmark in Riverdale donated the toys.

Ebel digs in her sack of animals. She pulls out a blue bear with a peace sign on his shirt. A heart-shaped tag holds a note:

“Let’s say a prayer

that peace will come

for you, for me,

for everyone.”


Elyse Kaner is at

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