With just days to go before his big night on Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus toured Germantown this morning with his friends from the Montgomery County Police Department. He traded his sleigh and reindeer for a Harley and full police escort to tour the County and spread good cheer as part of the MCPD’s Santa Ride.
Santa, along with Mrs. Claus, and over 20 motor officers are bringing gift bags and donations raised by the Montgomery County Police Department to a party for the children whose families are residents at the Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda.
As temperatures and wind chills dipped in the low 20s, Santa his team of motor-elves left District 5 Police headquarters on route to their first stop. They rode down Century Boulevard to the Upcounty Regional Services Center on Middlebrook Road where Santa met with a group of little ones.
The procession than moved past Seneca Valley High School on Wisteria Drive and took a right onto Great Seneca Highway and continued past Northwest High School on the way to the next stop in the Kentlands.
“It is important for us to do the Santa Ride for several reasons,” said Officer Scott West, who is currently assigned to the 6th District Traffic Squad. “First and foremost is we are raising money to support the families at NIH. We are raising money to help the families who are staying at the Inn at NIH. The families staying with the sick kids, and their sibling. The Inn at NIH is keeping families together in difficult times. By keeping families together it makes a bad situation that much less stressful. It helps them in the long run.”
“We do it as a matter of pride,” said West, as he sat on his Harley waiting to escort Santa to his next stop. “We take our jobs seriously. We enjoy riding the motorcycles. We enjoy the community outreach, where we can get Santa out here with us and escort him all around the County to help raise money for the Children’s Inn.”
The Children’s Inn is a private, nonprofit, family-centered residence for pediatric outpatients at the National Institutes of Health. Its purpose is to keep children together with their families during serious illness, reduce their stress and facilitate the healing process through mutual support. In fiscal year 2017, more than 1,700 families came from 50 states and 94 countries to stay at The Inn. Families do not pay to stay at the Inn; it relies solely on private contributions to sustain operations.
West said while the Santa Ride is a serious detail, it is all volunteer.
“Everyone of us is volunteering to be here. It is a matter of pride to us and it is an important part of our job. We see this as one of the biggest parts of our job on a yearly basis,” he said as other motorcycle officers clad in heavy leather coats with their faces covered to ward off the cold and wind during their ride. “We’ve had years when it was a little colder.”
In the past, residents have inquired to the police as to why the Santa Ride cannot begin at night so that school children may have a better opportunity to see Santa.
“Please know that the ultimate goal of this ride is meet with the families of NIH, so we need to make sure that we arrive at the Inn at a reasonable hour and that Santa has time to talk with all of the children. We appreciate your understanding,” said a police spokesman.
The Children’s Inn is seeking financial donations from local organizations and businesses. All donations raised will help support operational expenses as well as programs for the entire family. These services include recreational, therapeutic, wellness, educational, and spiritual programming. Each one designed to build community and wellbeing among residents and to provide children and families a natural opportunity to meet and make friends with others going through similar experiences.
“We are hoping you will be able to donate to this charity event,” said Laura King, Senior Director of Volunteers and Community Outreach for the Children’s Inn at NIH. “Your charitable, tax-deductible donation will help The Children’s Inn continue to provide much needed services to seriously ill children and their families. To provide a financial donation on-line, please visit our website at www.childrensinn.org/santaride, and enter your information. You may also mail your donation to The Children’s Inn at NIH, Attn: Donation Department in c/o Santa Police Ride, 7 West Drive, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.