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Children in hospital receive presents from Bibb deputies

Larry Villa, 4, a patient at Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health, wheels out a section of toys for himself and his siblings from the hospital's Holly Jolly Shoppe on Dec. 6, 2016. Walter Timley, who helped launch the tradition 12 years ago, smiles in the doorway.
Larry Villa, 4, a patient at Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health, wheels out a section of toys for himself and his siblings from the hospital's Holly Jolly Shoppe on Dec. 6, 2016. Walter Timley, who helped launch the tradition 12 years ago, smiles in the doorway. jvorhees@macon.com

Four-year-old Larry Villa told reporters he had “no time to chitchat” Tuesday afternoon as he pulled a plastic wagon filled with toys down the hall at the Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health.

He was too busy tinkering with presents for him and his four siblings.

His mother, Minerva Abarca, said Christmas shopping this year has been a challenge. Larry was diagnosed with leukemia in June, and the trips back and forth between the Macon hospital for chemotherapy treatments and their home in Fort Valley have taken a toll.

“We’re just thankful for all the toys,” Abarca said. “But I’d rather him be healthy at home, getting the little presents, than getting lots of presents” in the hospital.

In an operating room that had been transformed into a toy shop, Bibb County sheriff’s deputies wearing antlers stocked shelves with stuffed animals, toy cars, inflatable balls, dolls and more.

Families of children being treated in the hospital will soon be invited there to pick out gifts for their child and his or her siblings at no cost.

The annual tradition of giving to the Children’s Hospital at Christmastime was started a dozen years ago by Kim Preston, former president of the Korean American Cultural Association Of Middle Georgia, Inc.

Her husband, 55-year-old deputy Michael Preston, said the sheriff’s office took on the tradition about two years ago.

“We’re always looking for ways we can support the community and this is just one of the things we decided to do,” Preston said. “We plan on doing it annually and make it even bigger and bigger, maybe even reach out to other organizations.”

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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