Drivers, patient families team up for Batson drive

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children’s annual toy drive iscalled Santa Bags.

But after the three local families working the drive in LincolnCounty made their delivery Friday, the hospital might have torename the project Santa Trucks.

Those families teamed up with Wal-Mart Transportation to make abig toy delivery to Batson, providing an estimated $7,500 worth oftoys – and gift cards to buy more toys – for distribution to theyoung patients who will spend Christmas in the hospital. The toyswere loaded into a Wal-Mart truck and convoyed up to the hospitalFriday morning, with Batson-treated youngster Felder Sartin, 5, andDayne Newman, 2, riding shotgun in the rigs.

“We’re just overwhelmed at the response we’ve had,” said JessicaSartin, mother of Felder, who is undergoing chemotherapy for hisleukemia at Batson. “Everything always turns out to be so much morethan we expect when we start something like this.”

Sartin, along with Sarah Newman and Michelle Barber – themothers of Batson-treated children Dayne Newman and Emily Barber,respectively – collected more than 150 toys in barely two weeks forthe hospital’s toy drive.

But the charitable drivers and managers at Wal-Mart set up theirown collection box and piled on more. The 8-foot box erected at theWal-Mart Distribution Center was filled with approximately $5,000worth of toys, all purchased and donated by drivers and workers inthe office.

Wal-Mart’s contribution is another step in a developingrelationship with Blair E. Batson, begun last year when generaltransportation manager Derek Crosby’s son Bretton, 16, was treatedthere. The relationship grew in June when Wal-Mart drivers worked atelethon at the hospital and took another step Friday.

It’s a convenient match, as Batson is a member of the Children’sMiracle Network, which Wal-Mart supports.

“We were trying to decide what we were going to do for Christmasto support the community, and we’ve had so many people touched bythe children’s hospital,” Crosby said.

Michelle Barber’s daughter, Emily, passed away in June at age 4after succumbing to cancer.

Her mother said the girl thought the world of Batson and itsmedical staff, proudly recognizing her doctor’s name on the radioduring a hospital advertisement. Michelle carried on the toy drivein Emily’s memory.

“Emily is smiling down on us – I know this is something she’dwant to do,” she said. “They did so much for her, were so good toher. She was very shy, very hard to win over, but it didn’t takethe hospital long.”

Wal-Mart driver Rickey Oliver, who drove the lead rig to Jacksonduring Friday’s convoy, said participating in the Batson toy drivewas an “exceptionally good” addition to Wal-Mart Transportation’slist of community outreach programs.

“It’s going to touch those kids in the hospital and theirfamilies,” he said