On a sunny morning, with the temperature reaching 51 degrees, a Santa Claus from the Brownsville Fire Department made his way up the giant ladder at the top of their red fire truck to say hi through the windows to the patients and staff at Valley Regional Medical Center on Christmas Eve.
With the white beard, a red Christmas hat and the red and white jacket that are distinctive of Santa Claus, Richard Walter III said being an emergency personnel, he spends a lot of time in the ambulance taking patients to the hospital and realizes the most scary and difficult times of their lives are spent at the hospital, so he decided to bring a little joy.
“Things are difficult and being able to bring joy, bring them a smile, just to be part of that is huge,” he said.
“It has been really tough. Especially for us, a lot of our firefighters have gotten sick and it’s been really tough. At the station, we actually got to set up a Christmas Tree, we got lights and we are doing a gift exchange. Even though some people say it does not feel like Christmas, just having the time to sit down and realize what we are actually thankful for, what we are celebrating, will make us close the year hopefully in a positive way.”
Walter said the most important part of Christmas is feeling thankful and spending time with family and loved ones. When asked for a message for fellow first responders, he said while this year has been especially tough, it is important to have a support system and people to rely on.
“I know that things can be difficult, and I know that at times the calls can be difficult and heavy, going home with the family can be difficult,” he said. “But being able to have a support system, being able to have people you can talk to and depend on. Keeping that mindset that there is hope and there are better things to come.”
Mariana Whitley Tumlinson, director for community and public relations at VRMC, said while COVID-19 2020 has been really tough for the community, it has also been an opportunity to be innovative with the way people do things for each other and with each other.
“It means so much that the Fire Department wanted to do this and they had an innovative way to bring Christmas cheer to the hospital,” she said. “In their own way, using the ladder, I think it was really cool and I think it’s important for us to stay positive, to protecting each other and take care of each other by wearing masks, social distancing and practicing hand hygiene.”
When it comes to the meaning of Christmas, Whitley Tumlinson said it is recognizing the good that there is in the community, the successes that have been accomplished, even in this hard year.
“It is a time to reflect about the good stuff that has happened and even the stuff that hasn’t been so good,” she said. “How we’ve learned from it and how we’ve overcome it. I think as a community we have overcomed so much and it’s important to remember that during the holidays.”