Fayette County

Santa, UK students visit children at University of Kentucky hospital

The balloons; eggs, bacon and waffles; Christmas carols; and visits with University of Kentucky athletes and cheerleaders might have been enjoyable, but they weren't the only reasons dozens of children and their parents got up early Saturday and headed to the UK Chandler Hospital cafeteria.

Seeing Santa was the biggest reason for many of them. After all, the event was billed as "Breakfast with Santa Claus," and the big guy in red didn't disappoint.

Midway through the festivities, he strolled into the room to the tune of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, sung by the UK Chorus, bellowing out deep ho-ho-hos and expressing wishes of a Merry Christmas for all.

He knelt down to talk to a girl who was being carted around the room in a wagon, then settled into a big chair placed in a corner just for him, adjusted his cap and beard, and got down to business.

"Do you brush your teeth? Do you pick your toys up after you play with them?" he asked each child who stood in line to sit on his lap and tell him what he or she wanted for Christmas. Mrs. Claus and some elves helped Santa hand out coloring books, balloons and candy canes to the children.

Up close, Santa bore a striking resemblance to Gary Ginn, whose job as Fayette County's coroner is about 180 degrees different from Santa's job.

Saturday's party, a tradition at the hospital for about 25 years and sponsored by UK HealthCare Volunteer Services, was for patients at Kentucky Children's Hospital and other children from throughout the community.

"It's just a really good experience," said UK varsity cheerleader Olivia Rink, who along with other UK cheerleaders and athletes, mingled and talked with the children.

The children's hospital mascot Stitches and UK Wildcat mascot Scratch also wound their way through the room, interacting with the children.

Ginny Osbourn, a bashful 6-year-old who visits the children's hospital one weekend a month because of a skin and muscle disorder, nodded when asked whether she was excited about seeing Santa. She said she planned to ask Santa for a bow and arrows and play horses.

"She's doing really well; we've got a great doctor here," said her dad, Kevin Osbourn, who, along with his wife, Diane, accompanied Ginny to the party.

Back in the corner, Santa talked to Antoine Strong, 4, and his brother, Jordan, 2 — one on each knee — as their parents, Johnica Watkins and Antoine Strong, and 8-month-old brother, Braylon, watched and listened.

"You guys been good boys?" Santa asked.

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