Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 | 5:13 p.m.
Nevada Highway Patrol troopers beat Santa to Sunrise Children’s Hospital, delivering gifts to young patients on Wednesday.
The tradition began 14 years ago when Trooper Robert Whitaker died in a car accident, leaving behind a young daughter. Fellow troopers collected money for his family and decided to spread cheer at University Medical Center’s pediatric unit with leftover funds.
Since then, the gift-giving operation has grown to include Sunrise and the St. Rose Sienna campus, Trooper Jeremie Elliott said. This year, 24 troopers each donated $250 toward the cause.
“When we go in there — just for a few brief moments — (the children) forget about the pain and suffering,” Elliott said. “It’s worth it for us.”
Six troopers delivered the presents, which included a replica NHP patrol car and a dancing stuffed dog, to patients up and down the hallways on the hospital’s pediatrics floor and in pediatric intensive care unit.
In a hospital playroom, 5-year-old Felipe Ocampo squealed with delight as Trooper Brittany Burtner handed him toys.
“The little boys with the cars — they go nuts when they see them,” she said.
The group visited children at UMC on Wednesday morning and headed to the St. Rose Siena campus after stopping at Sunrise.