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Officers seek toy donations for sick children

Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry of the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s Troop M believes Christmas is going to be especially jolly, this year. Why? Because he and his colleagues are collecting much needed toy donations for patients at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

“We have done it in previous years,” he said. “We normally try to reach out to Batson, because of all the children they take in.”

Batson is an institution that means a great deal to Fortenberry. He knows firsthand just how bad hospitalized children could use a little seasonal cheer.

“In 2008, I had a set of twins,” he said. “They were airlifted to Batson. We spent three months there, and I can testify to what the children go through, there.”

Troop M is in the process of placing gift-wrapped donation boxes and fundraising posters in strategically located local businesses.

“If you see one of our posters, please donate,” Fortenberry said.

After the toys are collected, Fortenberry and another officer will help deliver them to the hospital.

“This will be my first year taking the gifts up there,” Fortenberry said.

Because some of the children are particularly susceptible to infection, Batson asks that all donations be newly purchased and unwrapped. Stuffed animals are no longer accepted, and religious-themed items cannot be distributed.

“We must comply with the separation of church and state,” the hospital’s Child Life staff stated. “Our pastoral services department meets the spiritual needs of our patients, so if you have any religious materials you wish to donate, please contact them at 601-984-2110.”

The deadline to make a donation is Dec. 18, and, according to Batson, gifts will be delivered Dec. 23.

Fortenberry hopes everyone in the community who is able will make an effort to contribute. He said each gift has the potential to raise a seriously ill child’s dwindling morale.

“Children are our future,” he said. “I think showing them that we care is important, especially when they think they have no hope.”

He and the rest of Troop M also want to show Batson’s patients that law enforcement officials are primarily concerned with community outreach and public service.

“The Highway Patrol would like to have a face to face with the kids to show them that we’re not out there to get them,” Fortenberry said. “We actually care about them.”

Brimming with holiday spirit and electric anticipation, the patrolmen want to make this Christmas unforgettable for the children at Batson.

“We’re really excited,” he said.

For a list of suggested items, visit www.dailyleader.com.

Story by Trapper Kinchen