LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 7, 2012) - Early Friday morning, while many children are busy in school, Santa and his UK HealthCare volunteer elves will load up more than 800 presents and deliver them to children in need in Fayette County and eight surrounding counties as part of UK HealthCare's Circle of Love program.
This year marks the 26th anniversary of the program, organized each year by UK HealthCare's Volunteer Services Department and implemented by a very devoted Circle of Love Committee, composed of UKHC employees.
When Santa helps pack up the hundreds of packages to deliver throughout Central Kentucky, he is doing the easy part. To get to that part, program volunteers have spent endless hours sorting toys, matching them to children's wish lists, wrapping them and organizing them for what they hope will be an easy - and exciting - distribution.
Marti Sale, administrator for UK HealthCare's Department of Psychiatry, has been involved with the Circle of Love program since 1988. For Marti and the many other volunteers, the program is a labor of love.
"I think it's wonderful," Sale said. "I will do this as long as I'm at the University - and even when I'm not at the University, I'll come back to help.”
Sale said that each year, to make the Circle of Love work, UK HealthCare comes together as a community as itself to help others.
"We read off each other," Sale said. "We work together to make sure all the names (of children who need gifts) get taken, that every child has something they want, that one child in a family doesn't receive more than another in the same family. It's a big job, but it's a job that's tremendously rewarding."
Bonnie Thornton, director of UK HealthCare's Volunteer Services, said she continues to be impressed and amazed each year by the generosity of not only the UK HealthCare employees who donate toys, but by the hard work and dedication of the many volunteers who make this program happen.
"Without our UK HealthCare Circle of Love Staff Volunteer Committee, it wouldn't matter how many toys are donated - we simply would not be able to get all these toys into the hands of the children without them," Thornton said. "Holiday giving isn't just about presents and toys - it's about giving of yourself to help others. UK HealthCare Circle of Love Volunteers and employees do just that year after year - they give generously of their time to make sure these kids have a happy holiday. Simply put, in my opinion, this committee is the best."
Sale said that, even though they aren't there when children receive their gifts, there's a tremendous feeling of relief - and excitement - when the gifts leave campus for their various schools.
"I get cards after Christmas every year, and they all say thank you very much," Sale said. "They can be from children, parents, grandparents…they all appreciate it. They tell me it's wonderful that there are people in the world who do what we do.
"That's what it's all about - helping your fellow man," Sale added. "That's what makes it worthwhile."