Operation HoHoHo brings magic of holiday season to children at SickKids

ʹTwas a couple weeks before Christmas, when all through SickKids Hospital, everyone was getting excited–because Santa’s elves were on their way!

Santa’s “elves” from 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron colour with young patients at SickKids hospital in Toronto during Operation HoHoHo. Capt Mark Ruban Photo
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Once again this year, the women, men and “elves” from 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, located at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ont., brought bundles of joy to the young patients of SickKids in Toronto as part of Operation HoHoHo.

Through the initiative, the squadron collects toys and gifts for children at the hospital. The presents are donated mainly by military personnel, community members and businesses in the Simcoe County region.

Santa’s elves–sporting their best holiday attire and wanting to travel in style–hopped on a CH-146 Griffon helicopter at Borden, and made their way south to the heliport of SickKids to complete their mission.

“Operation HoHoHo is our opportunity, along with the community, to put a smile on the kids’ faces for at least a day,” said LCol Jill Bishop, the commanding officer of 400 Squadron. “This event is all about the children and it’s really something that everyone at the unit looks forward to all year long.”

Many children came down from their rooms to meet the elves in the rotunda of the hospital. There, the elves and their squadron colleagues delivered gifts to the children and mingled with their families.

They all worked on crafts, drew pictures at a colouring station and played games. Guitar in hand, Aviator Chris Syrie, a squadron member, sang Christmas songs for the children.

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For those children who could not leave their beds, the elves and military personnel went to deliver gifts to their rooms.

“Operation HoHoHo is just such a great tradition,” said Sgt Chris Morrow of 400 Squadron. “A lot of folks at the unit and in Simcoe County get involved because it’s a great way to share the holiday spirit.”

This year marked the 14th edition of Operation HoHoHo. The project started as–and continues to be–a way of doing something special for the young patients who cannot be home over the holidays.

It’s all about sharing the magic of the season with the children at SickKids. And that same magic is also experienced by all those who donated to the project and by those who had the privilege of meeting these exceptional kids.

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