On a 90-degree day in the middle of July, his unmistakable laugh rang out over the streets of downtown Grand Rapids.
“Ho-ho-ho,” Santa bellowed.
Donning his traditional red suit but wearing flip-flops instead of boots, he stood atop a bright orange speedboat as it was towed along the Medical Mile.
The watercraft became his mid-summer sleigh, packed stem to stern with toys for kids at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
A group of onlookers and eager kids quickly gathered outside the children’s hospital.
Tommy’s Boats partnered with Santa to coordinate the delivery of a boatload of toys to the hospital, following a Christmas in July toy drive.
The team at Tommy’s Boats has been supporting the children’s hospital for several years with similar toy drives, and they said it’s their favorite work of the season.
While many of the toys were handed out to kiddos at Wednesday’s event, any extras will be used by the Child and Family Life team over the next few months—they’ll provide them to kids in the children’s hospital during birthdays and other special celebrations.
One by one, the kids came out to meet Santa as he unloaded his bags of toys.
Barbie dolls, Play-Doh, Legos, arts and crafts supplies and more.
The goodies were spread out in front of the children’s hospital’s main entrance, allowing kids to take their pick while saying hi to Santa.
Among the first to meet Santa: Jeremiah Edwards, 2. He is scheduled for a colonoscopy, and his mother, Miriah Edwards, said he was excited at the chance to get outside.
“This is just great,” Miriah said. “It takes his mind off of everything that’s going on.”
Charlie Nguyen, 2, was just as eager. He and his dad, Nhat Nguyn, checked out the toy selection carefully. Charlie was at the hospital for a tracheostomy procedure.
“We are having a lot of fun today,” Nhat said. “He’s so excited about picking out the toys.”
And 10-year-old Quinn Petter came next. She’s undergoing treatment for a dog bite, so she was excited to head outdoors to meet St. Nick.
“As you can see, Santa trims down a bit in the summertime,” Santa said. “It’s nice to get out in the hot sun and get away from the North Pole. I love visiting with the kids. It’s nice to take a break from the workshop and spread joy.”
Staci Chambers, general manager for Tommy’s Boats in Grand Rapids, said her team loves giving back and they look forward to this event every summer.
“We enjoy getting people out on the water, but more importantly we enjoy giving back to the community,” Chambers said. “We can fill a boat with toys and take our expertise with watercraft, and connect it here with the kids.
“It’s the middle of summer and everyone is outside enjoying the water and boats,” she said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s do something for the kids who can’t get out on the water.’”
The Child and Family Life team at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital was grateful for the donation.
“The Christmas in July event is not only fun, but provides joy to our patients and their families,” said Amy Davis, manager of Child and Family Life at the children’s hospital. “Child and Family Life works hard to connect with the community and engage in community partnerships.
“Connectivity and collaboration is key, and we are thankful for community partners like Tommy’s Watersports for continuing to help bring smiles to our patients’ faces with fun events like this one.”
Kelly Dyer, president of the Spectrum Health and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundations, echoed her support for the event.
“We are so grateful for Tommy’s and all of the people who are thinking about our kids and families this summer,” she said. “I know many people are on summer vacation, but our kids are still here—and many are going through difficult journeys. It’s great to have the community thinking of them.”