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(Mission, Texas) Their faces just light-up and they get excited when they see Juan Larralde dressed in his Red Santa Claus Outfit, “Hey, look its Santa, he came to see us.”

It’s all about the children and to see the smiles on all their faces. Some might not have a Christmas without us helping a little bit,” explains Larralde.

It begins early on a Saturday morning in December before Christmas. The medical staff at Mission Regional Medical Center starts loading gifts on what you would call a modern day sleigh. Juan Larralde, RN, Critical Care Director dons the traditional Red Santa Claus suit and readies himself for the long day. Larralde and his team wouldn’t have it any other way.

The effort to provide Christmas gifts to children in the impoverished area of South Texas began four years ago when physicians donated funds and asked the medical staff to find families in need. Area school districts provide the hospital a list of area families who could use a little help sharing the Christmas spirt with their children. This year, approximately 90 families and a local hospice received gifts from the Physicians at Mission Regional Medical Center.

Over the last 4 years, this effort has become an annual tradition. It begins with identifying families, buying and wrapping the gifts, and assembling a team to deliver the gifts. Often times, even with GPS, it’s difficult to find the families in the rural parts of the area.

The need is real. You don’t even have to ask. It’s there in front of you. For many families, there simply isn’t money to buy Christmas gifts for the children. Basic needs, take precedence over holiday gifts.

“It’s the most fulfilling project I work on all year,” says Eira Romero, Director ER, Mission Regional Medical Center.