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Santa Brings Presents and Asthma Education to Students

Contact: 
Christa Dean Hild 
850-747-6542

Panama City, Forida  Santa Claus brought toys and gifts to several hundred screaming and ecstatic elementary school students Tuesday morning.

Bay Medical Center, Hiland Park Baptist Church and Kohl’s teamed up to provide toys, gifts and even asthma education for 1,250 local students.

The students at Oakland Terrace Elementary School had an assembly Tuesday; they met to sing Christmas songs in the cafeteria on the last day before starting the Christmas break. The jolly old elf St. Nick made a surprise appearance at the assembly.

Santa Claus talked to the students for several minutes before requesting the curtains be raised, revealing a present for each of the 357 students.

The gift bags were filled with toiletry items, games, toys, puzzles and school supplies. The average cost for each bag was $18, said Tammy Kirkland, from the Hiland Park Baptist Church Project Shoebox.

Volunteers from the church spent upwards of eight hours sorting and packing the supplies. Following the assembly and gift bag distribution, students were allowed to take their gifts back to their classrooms and open them to reveal the goodies. In one kindergarten classroom the students had a hard time picking just one favorite toy.

“I love Santa, he’s the best,” said kindergartner Antuwan Massaline.

For student Nathan Ponce, his favorite gift was the new box of crayons. Ne’Vaeh Lee said she liked her new hat.

Kohl’s provided Bay Medical with a $23,000 grant to provide community pediatric asthma education.

“The grant helps the community with health education,” said Lou Scott-Sersch, assistant store manager of Kohl’s.

The idea was to use the grant to purchase small toys for the holidays and include the asthma education in the gift bags.

“It’s really important to educate children about asthma, because it’s one of the leading causes for absences for students,” said Marsha White, the chief nursing officer from Bay Medical Center.

Kohl’s has provided funding for pediatric asthma education since 2009. The supplies and gifts were ordered through the Bay Medical pharmacy at “substantial” savings. The gift bags were delivered to seven elementary schools in the county.

“My favorite part is just how grateful the students are for things that we take for granted,” Kirkland said.